Answers about the Night Sky

Answers about the Night Sky

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What’s up in Tonight’s Sky

By Garry Beckstrom

 

March 2017

HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS MONTH

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Click HERE to Download our basic EVENING Star Map for March 2017 (pdf)

March2017StarMap copy(For star maps to print properly, download pdf and save to your computer, then print from there.)

Download our star maps to help you find your way around the sky.
Our basic star maps show the planets and major star patterns or constellations visible in the evening and morning skies this month, without faint background stars. This makes it easier to pick out the brighter patterns in the real sky. Hold the map over your head with “North” on the map facing the direction north. The middle of the circular map (marked “zenith”) is the point directly over your head. The edges of the circular map mark the horizon all around you. Find one of the bright constellation patterns, ignoring fainter stars you might see in between. You can then jump from constellation to constellation, finding your way around the sky. It helps to use a dim, red flashlight so that you can see both the map and the sky together.

 

Click HERE to Download our basic MORNING Star Map for March 2017 (pdf)

March2017MorningStarMap copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS MONTH

All descriptions below are for mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. EST is Eastern Standard Time in North America.
EDT is Eastern Daylight Time in North America.

Below you’ll find a section about what to see in the EVENING SKY this month, followed by a section about what to see in the early MORNING SKY before dawn.

Below those sections you’ll find a list of dates this month where we point out specific things to look for on those days, along with other interesting information.

We hope you’ll find our night sky information fun and easy to use. Happy Stargazing!

 

 

THE EVENING SKY IN MARCH

Venus appears as both the “Evening Star” and then the “Morning Star” this month. The bright planet begins the month dominating the western sky after sunset until it gets too low to see around mid-month. By the last week of March the bright planet has swung between us and the Sun and now begins rising ahead of the Sun in the morning sky.

Like last month, you’ll find the red planet Mars hanging in the western sky during early evening too. Not nearly as bright as Venus, Mars will be interesting to check out, especially at the beginning of the month, as you can use it to help you find nearby Uranus using binoculars or a telescope. Scroll down the page to see March 1.

Looking west an hour after sunset on March 5. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March5MarsVenusW1hrPM copy

 

 

The giant planet Jupiter rises late in the evening and remains a bright beacon in the sky until sunrise. Nearby is the bright star Spica.

Looking southeast late evening on March 10. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March10JupSpicaSElatePM copy

 

This month is also your chance to see tiny Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. The planet will first appear very low in the western sky after sunset beginning after March 20. It will appear higher above the horizon each evening until April 1 when it will begin swinging back around toward the Sun and get lower again each evening. You’ll need a clear, low, western horizon to see it.

Looking west 30 minutes after sunset on March 24. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March24MerMarsW30mPM copy

 

 

With all the planet action this month, don’t forget that spring officially begins in March. Scroll down the page to see March 20.

The constellation pattern of Leo the Lion has appeared, as it does each year at this time, rising in the east in the evening. The winter stars surrounding Orion the Hunter are still there, though farther over in the western sky. See our basic EVENING Star Map at the top of this page. As time goes on Leo appears higher in the eastern sky each night, and Orion and company appear to get lower in the west. It seems that the lion is chasing the winter stars from the sky and bringing the warmer weather of spring with him. Time to get out and do some stargazing. Enjoy!

Looking south mid-month. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
LeoOrion copy


 

 

 

 

 

THE MORNING SKY IN MARCH

The giant planet Jupiter had risen during late evening near the bright star Spica, and is still visible over in the west-southwest before dawn.

Looking west-southwest an hour before sunrise on March 20. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March20JupSpicaWSWam copy

 

 

The beautiful ringed planet Saturn is visible too toward the south. Not as bright as Jupiter, but still worth a look in a small telescope to see the famous rings.

Looking south an hour before sunrise on March 15. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March15SatAM copy

 

 

After dominating the western evening sky at the beginning of March, Venus has now swung between the Sun and the Earth and is now ahead of the Sun, rising in the morning sky. Sometimes called “the Morning Star” Venus is pretty low near the eastern horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise the last week of the month.

Looking east 30 minutes before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene for a full image.
March31VenusEam copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON SOME SPECIFIC DAYS THIS MONTH

BE SURE TO CLICK ON EACH SCENE BELOW FOR A FULL IMAGE.

 

March 1 EVENINGVenus, Mars and the Moon gather tonight after sunset.

Looking west an hour after sunset. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March1 copy

Using binoculars, see if you can find the planet Uranus. Tonight you should be able to get the Moon, Mars and Uranus in the same field of view. Use the scene below to help you pick out Uranus floating below Mars.

Looking west an hour after sunset using binoculars. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March1Uranus copy

 

 

 

March 3 EVENINGThe Moon is below the bright star Aldebaran tonight. Tomorrow night the Moon will pass in front of the star for many of us.

Looking southwest. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March3MoonAldebaranHighSW copy

 

 

 

March 4 EVENING – Here’s a fun sky event you can check out with binoculars and small telescopes this month! The Moon will pass in front of the bright star Aldebaran. This is called an occultation. This occultation will be visible in most of the United States, Mexico and Central America. Scroll down for more information.

Looking southwest. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March4MoonAldebaranHighSW copy
The times when Aldebaran will disappear and reappear from behind the Moon will depend on your location. To find the times for your location, go to http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/bstar/0305zc692.htm. Here you’ll find a very long table listing first the disappearance times followed by the reappearance times. You’ll have to scroll down to find your country, like “US” and then find a city or town near you. The times listed are Universal Time, so you will have to convert to your local time. In the U.S., subtract 5 hours for EST; 6 hours for CST; 7 hours for MST; 8 hours for PST. For everyone, the star will disappear on the shadowed side of the Moon, and reappear on the lit side. It will be easy to see the star disappear, but because of the brightness of the Moon, it will be very difficult to see it reappear on the Moon’s bright side.

 

 

 

 

March 5 MORNING – First Quarter Moon occurs at 6:32 a.m. EST. The Moon is one quarter of the way around the Earth and appears half lit in the evening sky. The lit part is facing the Sun.
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EVENING – The Moon is now well past Aldebaran tonight making a triangle with it and the star Betelgeuse.

Looking high in the southwest mid-evening. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March5MoonAldebaranHighSW copy

 

 

 

March 9 EVENING – The Moon will be passing the bright star Regulus over the next couple evenings.

Looking east mid-evening. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March9MoonRegulusEastMidEv copy

 

 

 

 

March 10 EVENINGThe bright star just above the Moon tonight is Regulus.

Looking east mid-evening. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March10MoonRegulusEastMidEv copy

 

 

 

 

March 11 EVENINGThe star Regulus is well above the Moon tonight. See March 9 and 10 above.

Looking east mid-evening. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March11MoonRegulusEastMidEv copy

 

 

 

 

March 12 MORNING – Most of North America will be starting Daylight Savings Time at 2:00 a.m. this morning. Set your clocks FORWARD one hour. Remember it is SPRING, so we SPRING forward one hour.
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Full Moon occurs at 10:54 a.m. EDT. The Moon is now half way around the Earth in its orbit. The Earth is between the Moon and the Sun so we see the Moon fully lit.  We now see the Moon opposite the Sun in the sky, so as the Sun sets, the Moon rises.
full


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 14MORNING – The Moon has gathered with Jupiter and Spica this morning.

Looking west-southwest an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March14MoonJupSpicaWSW1hrAM copy

 

 

 

March 15 MORNINGCheck out the pretty triangle of the Moon, Jupiter and Spica this morning.

Looking west-southwest an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March15MoonJupSpicaWSW1hrAM copy

 

 

 

 

March 16 MORNINGThe Moon has now left Jupiter behind. See March 14 and 15 above.

Looking west-southwest an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March16MoonJupSpicaWSW1hrAM copy

 

 

 

 

March 18 MORNINGUse the Moon to help you find the ringed planet Saturn this morning.

Looking south an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March18MoonSatSAM copy

 

 

 

March 19 MORNINGThe Moon, Saturn and the star Antares dominate the southern sky this morning.

Looking south an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March19MoonSatSAM copy

 

 

 

March 20 MORNINGA pretty sight in binoculars. Saturn is right below the Moon this morning.

Looking south an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March20MoonSatSAM copy

 

Spring officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere at 6:29 a.m. EDT. This is the Vernal Equinox. “Equinox” refers to “equal” because today day and night are nearly equal lengths. The Sun is now rising due east and setting due west. Beginning tomorrow, the sunrise and sunset points will slowly continue moving farther north along the east and west horizons and the time of daylight will begin to lengthen even more. The sunrise and sunset points will continue to move north along the horizons until the Summer Solstice in June, when the Sun rises far to the northeast and sets far to the northwest.
SunArcs copy

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Quarter Moon occurs at 11:58 a.m. EDT. The Moon is three-quarters of the way around the Earth now. It appears half lit in the early morning sky; the lighted side always faces the Sun.
last

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 21 MORNING – A line up in the south this morning with the Moon, Saturn and Antares.

Looking south an hour before sunrise. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March21MoonSatSAM copy

 

 

 

March 24 EVENING – You’ll need a low, clear western horizon to pick out the little planet Mercury. Can you see Mars too?

Looking west 30 minutes after sunset. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March24MerMarsW30mPM copy

 

 

 

March 27 EVENINGNew Moon occurs at 10:57 p.m. EDT.  The Moon is directly between the Earth and Sun and not visible. In a couple of days it will appear as a thin crescent in the evening as it pulls away from the Sun from our point of view. The crescent, or lit side of the Moon, always faces the Sun.
new


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 29 EVENING – Here’s a pretty sight. A thin crescent Moon is near Mercury and Mars this evening. Check them out in binoculars.

Looking west 30 minutes after sunset. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March29MoonMarsMerW30PM copy

 

 

 

 

March 30 EVENING – Can you find Mars to the right of the crescent Moon tonight? Now try for Mercury down near the horizon.

Looking west 30 minutes after sunset. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March30MoonMarsMerW30PM copy

 

 

 

March 31 EVENING – Another pretty sight to end the month. Start with finding the Moon. Just above it is the bright star Aldebaran. To the lower right of the Moon see if you pick out Mars. Now try for Mercury, low near the horizon. They’re all in a line this evening.
Looking west an hour after sunset. Be sure to click on the scene below for a full image.
March31MoonAlbMarsMerW1hrPM copy

 

 



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