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 31st 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.
For a few days only, look low in the dusk twilight to the west, to locate elusive Mercury. At the start of the month, it’s shining at magnitude +0.1 and will be setting around 7.30pm. But the innermost planet is fading and dropping down in the sky. A week later it’s disappeared from view.
The only major planet in the evening sky this month is Mars. It will be setting below the horizon about 11.30pm. Starting the month in the constellation of Aries the red planet quickly moves upwards into the constellation Taurus. Shinning at magnitude +1.3. On the last couple of nights of March, Mars forms a lovely sight next to the Pleiades star cluster.
Mighty Jupiter leads the morning parade of planets this month. Rising above the horizon about 2am in the constellation of Ophiuchus. A magnificent beacon at magnitude –2.1. The reddish star to Jupiter’s right is Antares in the constellation of Scorpius. On the morning of 27th the gas giant is very close to an almost last quarter Moon.
The ring is next to rise around 4am, located in the constellation of Sagittarius at magnitude +0.6. On the morning of the 29th an almost half Moon is immediately below Saturn.
Last in the morning parade, but very far from the least is glorious Venus, at magnitude –4.1. It appears low in the morning twilight about 4am but continues to slide down into the dawn glow. It will be difficult to spot Venus by the end of the month.
Located to the lower right of Mars is green Uranus. At a faint magnitude of +5.9
It will be found in the constellation of Aries and will be setting around 9.30pm.
This distant world 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.
The phases of the Moon:-
New Moon 6th March
First quarter 14th March
Full Moon 21th March
Last quarter 28th March