If you not a fan of winter then this month will give you a few reasons to celebrate. Spring is on its way. On the 20th we have the vernal equinox. After that date the days become longer than the nights. This is followed on the 25th of March when British summer times stars and it will be around 8 pm before it becomes dark. March will be the best month this year to spot the elusive planet Mercury, using its bigger neighbour Venus as a marker.
The evening sky is transitioning to the stars and constellations that will adorn the heavens for the next few months. So, if you are a fan of Orion and its retinue, get your looks in fast, because those stars will be all but gone by the end of April. Of his retinue, only Capella, Procyon and Gemini are reasonably high up. Ursa Major is practically overhead. Cassiopeia is low in the northern sky, with Vega in the east. The southern sky is dominated by the constellation of Leo, while the brightest star on view is the glorious orange coloured Arcturus, in the constellation of Bootes. The Milky Way is not as conspicuous as in winter.
Mercury located low in the west after sunset for most of this month there will be a planetary waltz between Venus and Mercury. It starts March at the lower right of Venus, before rising upwards at mid month and then sinking back down. At the start of the month Mercury is ten times fainter than Venus at magnitude -1.3 and fades into the twilight glow at magnitude +1 by 20th March. On 3rd March Mercury will be located just a degree to the right of Venus. An ideal time to spot the elusive planet, while the crescent Moon joins the dance partners on the 18th and 19th of the month.
Venus the brilliant evening star will be shinning at magnitude –3.9, and will set two hours after the Sun.
Mars rises into the sky about 2.30am. Magnitude +0.6. Located in the constellation of Ophiuchus at the start of the month, it moves into Sagittarius, closing towards Saturn.
Around 11.30pm Jupiter rises above the horizon. Located in the constellation of Libra, it shines bright at magnitude –2.2.
Saturn rises around 3am, located in the constellation of Sagittarius at magnitude +0.5.
On the 28th March, use Venus as a signpost to locate faint Uranus. Located just half a degree above the evening star, it’s on the verge of naked eye visibility, at magnitude +5.9. It will be easier to see through binoculars or a low power telescope. Uranus will be in the constellation of Pisces all month, setting below the horizon around 9 pm.
This distant world Neptune will be too close to the Sun to be seen this month.
Pluto can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius. It will always be low down and only visible in a ten-inch or larger telescope in a truly dark sky for a short period of time.
Ceres the largest object in the asteroid belt can be located in the constellation of Cancer this month.
The phases of the Moon:-
Full Moon 2nd March
Last quarter 9th March
New Moon 17th March
First quarter 24th March
Full Moon 31th March