March 2019

Mercury begins our nightly parade of planets near the easternmost fish head of Pisces at the start of March. The messenger planet sinks into the sunset fast though. On the 7th, northern hemisphere observers will find it barely above the horizon with a slim crescent moon to the left. The planet is at inferior conjunction on the 15th.

Mars is higher in the west during the evening gliding eastward between Cetus the whale’s head and Aries. The moon passes by on the 11th. Toward the end of the month, the red planet is getting close to the Pleiades. It will pass between the Pleiades and the Hyades in April.

Venus, Saturn, the moon, and Jupiter are part of a morning lineup that’s been fun to watch since January. Jupiter and Saturn aren’t moving much during March. Venus is moving quickly eastward across the stars of Capricorn and then Aquarius. In the last few days of the month, you may notice Mercury has reappeared in the morning sky left of Venus. Start watching them now and enjoy a prolonged pairing in April.

Earth and Mars have equinoxes just days apart this month. Both are northward equinoxes. We don’t usually specify the direction the sun appears to be moving when describing the equinox on Earth. Since it is tied to our calendar, to call it the March equinox is enough. When we aren’t worried about being misunderstood by folks far away in another hemisphere, we in the north call it the spring equinox. Earth’s happens on the 20th at 21:59 UTC.

For Mars, a revolution around the sun is a little less than one year, eleven months as we reckon on Earth. So the Martian equinox doesn’t line up with our calendar. We must specify which equinox is happening on the red planet. The sun crosses the planet’s equator going north on March 23rd at 11:33 UTC.

The moon starts the month at southern lunistice 21.6° from the equator. It crosses the equator on the 8th, reaches northern lunistice on the 15th at 21.8°, and then goes south again on the 21st. A second southern lunistice is on the 28th at 21.9°.

Lunar apogee this month is on the 4th at 406,300 km. Perigee is on the 19th at 359,300 km.

New moon is on the 6th, first quarter on the 14th, full moon on the 21st, and last quarter on the 28th.

Some notable conjunctions this month

1st Saturn 0.3° from the moon. Viewers in the western Pacific will see an occultation.

2nd Venus 1.2° from the moon.

6th Vesta 0.5° from the moon.

7th Neptune 1.0° from the sun

7th Mercury 7.9° from the moon

10th Uranus 4.6° from the moon

11th Mars 5.5° from the moon

13th Moon 1.9° from Aldebaran

15th Mercury 3.5° from the sun. This is an inferior conjunction (the planet is between Earth and the sun).

19th Moon 2.5° from Regulus

26th Ceres 2.7° from the moon

27th Jupiter 1.9° from the moon

29th Saturn 0.1° from the moon. Viewers in the southern Atlantic will see an occultation.

Visibility map for the lunar occultation of Saturn on March 1. Spots in the western Pacific will see it.
Visibility map for the lunar occultation of Saturn on March 29. Places in the south Atlantic will get to see it.

None of our major planets are at aphelion, perihelion, greatest elongation, or opposition this month.

An asteroid named Antoku occults a 4th magnitude star on March 10. This map shows where the event is to be visible.
An asteroid named Soyuz-Apollo occults a 4th magnitude star on March 10. This visibility map shows where it can be seen.

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