Tight planet grouping a photo opportunity

James Edgar

The moon is just past full phase at the beginning of the month. March 9, Saturn shares the spotlight with the moon, and March 10, Jupiter has the honours, both four degrees away from Luna. Mercury also is four degrees north of the moon March 10, so all three planets will be in a tight grouping – could be a good photo opportunity. By March 16, the moon is three degrees south of Uranus; March 19 sees Mars just 1.9 degrees away; March 21 finds the cluster M35 0.7 degrees north of the moon, which reaches full phase March 28.

March 5, Jupiter is 0.3 degrees north of Mercury and March 10, the moon is four degrees south.However, the speedy planet is poorly placed for viewing being so close to the horizon at sunrise – more of a Southern Hemisphere object than for us northerners.

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Venus is too close to the sun to be seen.

Mars becomes visible in the southwest at sundown among the stars of Taurus, drifting off to the west as the evening progresses. The moon passes by March 18 and 19, just 1.9 degrees to the south. March 22, Mars is seven degrees north of Aldebaran, the bright star in Hyades cluster.

Jupiter is one of a group of three planets lining up along the ecliptic, stretching off west of the sun in this order ‑ Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. As noted above, Mercury is a tough one to see, but Jupiter and Saturn are easy targets. March 10, the thin crescent moon slides by Jupiter.

Saturn is part of the ecliptic trio described above, with the moon passing by March 9.

Uranus hangs in the western sky at dusk, among the stars of Aries, the Ram. March 17, the moon is three degrees to the south of the green/blue planet.

Neptune is too close to the sun to be seen.

The Zodiacal Light is visible in the west after evening twilight for the first two weeks of March.

Daylight Saving Time begins March 14.

The vernal equinox occurs March 20 at 9:37 UT.

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 Observer’s Handbook, and production manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour and he was recently awarded a Fellowship of the RASC.


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