March 2020

Venus continues its reign as the bright object of the evening sky. At the start of the month, it’s by the eastern fish of Pisces. Look westerly and see Pegasus to the right and Cetus to the left. Venus moves eastward among the starry background, passing Uranus on the 7th. For the next two weeks, Venus moves alongside the stars of Aries. It’s heading into Taurus, on track for a visit with the Pleiades on April 3. Get ready and hope for clear weather for a good view that evening. The moon will pass Venus on the 28th.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are morning objects. They have collected in Sagittarius and are lined up next to it at the start of March. Each is moving eastward at a different rate. Mars is moving fastest and catches up to Jupiter right about when the moon passes by them on the 18th. By the 21st, Mars has passed Jupiter and is on its way to a rendezvous with Saturn at the end of March.

There’s another object out there among this trio. The average backyard astronomer can’t see it and there’s still some controversy about whether it should be included among the planets. But Pluto is among. It’s very close to Mars on the 23rd.

You may be able to see Mercury in the second part of March. It’s at greatest elongation in the morning sky on the 24th. Follow the rough line Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn make almost all the way to the horizon a little before sunrise. Binoculars will help.

Some of this month’s notable conjunctions:

2nd – Moon and Aldebaran, 3.2°

8th – Moon and Regulus, 3.6°

8th – Venus and Uranus, 2.2°

18th – Moon and Mars, 0.7°

18th – Moon and Jupiter, 1.5°

19th- Moon and Saturn, 2.1°

20th – Mars and Jupiter, 0.7°

21st – Moon and Mercury, 3.4°

23rd – Mars and Pluto, close to 0°

28th – Moon and Venus, 6.5°

29th – Moon and Aldebaran, 3.5°

31st – Mars and Saturn, 0.9°

The March equinox is on the 20th at 03:50 UT.

Moon phases this month: first quarter on the 2nd, full on the 9th, last quarter on the 16th, new on the 24th.

The moon’s declinations this month: northern lunistice at 23.4° on the 5th, on the equator going south on the 11th, southern lunistice at 23.5° on the 17th, and crossing the equator going north on the 25th.

The moon’s orbital extremes this month: perigee at 357,100 km on the 10th and apogee at 406,800 km on the 24th.

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