Night sky in March Highlights

By Mike Glazier

Well, spring is just around the corner and with it comes a splattering of celestial objects in the dawn skies, close encounters and a ‘Blue Moon’ again.

Daylight saving time begins in North America on March 11th and the Spring Equinox is on 20th of the month. Summer time begins here in Europe on 25th of March so we advance our clocks by one hour on that date.

Let’s deal with the night sky now and the planets.

Mercury.   This small and overlooked planet will be just 1.4º N of the planet Venus on March 5th and both will remain close together for a period of time. On the 18th of March Mercury will be found 7.7º N of the Moon (which will be a very slim young Moon around one day old).

Venus  This planet will also be in the general area of the Moon on 18th, in fact it will be just 3.8º N of the Moon. The planet will join at just 0.1º S of the planet Uranus on 29th. Interesting to note that a telescope will be required to see Uranus at magnitude +5.9 but for Venus at magnitude -3.9 seeing will not be a problem. The only main problem to be aware of will be the Sun which will not be too far away.

Mars  The red planet which is so much in the news these days will be found  3.8º S of the Moon on  the night of March 10th, it will be found to brighten during the month from magnitude 0.8 to 0.3;  brighter than Antares in Scorpio.

Jupiter  On 7th of March this jovian planet will be just 4.1º S of the Moon, unfortunately it will be quite low down to the S.S.W and rising around midnight. The altitude of Jupiter will not have improved even by April.

Saturn  will unfortunately for us be a very disappointing planet due to the fact it will be very low down at magnitude +0.5. It will be best seen from southern latitudes where it will be high in the sky for observers there.

Uranus as has been said will have a close encounter with Venus but due to the position not much more can be said about that.

Neptune  This remote planet will be too close to the Sun for observations to be made.

There are no meteor showers associated with the month of March, but it should be said that sporadics, non-shower associated can appear at any time and very often appear bright and leave trails.

Other interesting objects of note.

1st of March Regulus in Leo will lie just 1.0º S of the Moon.

2nd               Full Moon.

4th                Spica the Alpha star in Virgo will lie 7.4º S of the Moon.

9th                Last quarter Moon

11th              Moon at Opogee 404,700 kms.

17th              New Moon

22nd             Aldebaran will be just 0.9º S of the Moon

24th              First quarter Moon

26th              Moon at perigee 369,100 kms.

31st              Full Moon second of the month

I thought that with this number of spurious notifications, it would be best putting them together in a column so that any would-be observer may just want to pick and choose without having to search throughout the month.

Humanity star.  This is the satellite which has been launched specifically with a short life expectancy, and has been causing comments from the astronomical fraternity. These comments have ranged from how observable it may be from any specific location to its brightness and ultimately to whether it may spoil the celestial sphere for observers.

The satellite itself is only about a metre in diameter, but it is highly reflective. I researched its availability from my Oliva location through to find that the magnitude of the satellite would only be around +4, taking it to the limit of a naked eye observation. The light pollution from here would render that impossible. It will if seen cross the sky quite quickly, in a manner similar to the I.S.S.  and it will ‘blink’ due only to its reflectivity. Transit times can be found in

As will have been noted there will be a ‘Blue Moon’ on 31st of March so no doubt the editors of newspapers will be making as much of a meal out of it as possible. There have already been advanced notifications of the ‘Green Moon’ in April ( 20th) with it being said this phenomena occurs once only every 420 years. It is of course rubbish and shouldn’t have any notice taken of it. See the following site for more detailed information about this hoax.