March skies – full moon will be on the 20th

Saskatchewan Skies

James Edgar

The moon begins this month with Saturn in a very close conjunction or occulted for some viewers, particularly in the Pacific, Central America, and southern North America. A day later, on the 2nd, Venus is 1.2 degrees north of the moon. New moon is on the 6th. In rapid succession, on the 9th, 11th, and 12th, the moon is 5 degrees south of Uranus, 6 degrees south of Mars, and 1.9 degrees north of Aldebaran, respectively. On the 17th, Luna is 0.5 degrees south of the Beehive Cluster (M44). The moon is full on the 20th. Jupiter is 1.9 degrees south of the moon on the 26th, and on the 29th, Saturn is again occulted, which is not surprising, since a full lunar month has passed since March 1. This event is visible from the southern Atlantic, Africa, and parts of southern India. For viewers in the west, it’s a very close conjunction at 0.05 degrees’ separation.

Mercury is visible in the western evening sky for a few days, but is quickly swallowed up in the sun’s glare by the 5th, reappearing at month-end in the eastern morning dawn sky.

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Venus meets up with the moon in the eastern morning twilight on the 2nd. The bright planet may present a challenge late in the month, as it hugs the horizon right at sunup. By month-end it is hidden in the sun’s glare as it passes behind our star.

Mars begins the month quite high in the western evening sky, gradually moving eastward with each day. Watch for the nearby crescent moon on the 11th.

Jupiter passes through the stars of the constellation Scorpius, near the centre of the Milky Way. Watch for a morning lineup of Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter, from left to right, in the second week of March. Then, on the 26th, the moon and Jupiter share centre stage (see above).

Saturn is among the stars of Sagittarius, the Archer, trailing Jupiter across the sky during the day. The moon skirts by the Ringed Planet on the first day of the month, an occultation in some parts of the world. The waning gibbous moon separates the two gas-giant planets on the 27th, leading up to the second close conjunction on the 29th.

Uranus and Mars share the same part of the sky, with Uranus slightly lower and to the west of the Red Planet. The slender moon passes by on the 9th and 10th.

Neptune is too close to the sun to be seen.

Daylight Saving Time begins on March 10.

Spring equinox is on March 20.

The zodiacal light is visible in the western evening sky in the final two weeks of March, but the full moon on the 20th will obscure this faint phenomenon.

James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was National President for two terms, is now the Editor of the renowned Observer’s Handbook, and Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.



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