Venus is the prominent evening planet. The planet can usually be seen about 30 minutes after Sunset. Venus is in very close proximity with Jupiter on the 1 -2 March. After that Venus separates from Jupiter and starts to climb up into the sky. By the end of the month, the planet has a very noticeable gain in altitude. The planet will be setting about 3 hours after Sunset at the end of March.
Jupiter is losing altitude fast. After its close approach to Venus, the planet starts to get lower in the Western Dusk Skies. By 19 March , Jupiter is getting to be too low in the bright Dusk Twilight to be easily seen. Around the 22 March, Jupiter is so low that it will be extremely difficult to see. By the end of the month, Jupiter has moved into the bright afterglow of Sunset and is lost from view. Due to Jupiter’s extremely low sky position, its conjunction with the Thin Crescent Moon on the 22 March and its conjunction with Mercury on 27 March are both very unfavorable.
Mars still holds a high sky position in the SW as darkness falls. Despite losing more brightness as the month progresses, the planet maintains it relative high sky position all month long.
Mercury technically becomes an evening planet during the last week of March. At that time, Mercury will be extremely low in the bright Western twilight and will be hard to see. Next month, things will rapidly change for the better for Mercury.
Saturn the sole bright morning planet, should become visible in the Dawn SE twilight, sometime around mid-month. The planet struggles for the rest of the month to try and get out of the bright Dawn twilight. Next month Saturn will make some progress for a better view.
1 – 2 Mar Jupiter Venus Conjunction, Dusk
2 Mar Waxing Gibbous Moon below bright star Pollux, Evening
5 Mar Moon left of bright star Regulus
10 Mar Waning Gibbous Moon near bright star Spica, Dawn
14 Mar Last Quarter Moon left of bright star Antares, Dawn
20 Mar Vernal Equinox
22 Mar Thin Crescent Moon above Jupiter, Dusk (Unfavorable)
25 Mar Crescent Moon left of Pleiades Star Cluster (M45), Dusk
27 Mar Jupiter Mercury Conjunction, Dusk (Unfavorable)
29 Mar Moon below bright star Pollux, Evening
Jupiter Venus Conjunction:
The best planetary conjunction of the year happens on 1 – 2 March when the planets Jupiter and Venus are very close to each other. Venus is the brightest of the two planets. Most folks will usually wait about ½ hour after Sunset then look for the pair. Bright Venus is the guide to this conjunction and will be seen first. The two planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye. Binoculars will help to enhance the view. Sharp eyed individuals may be able to see the pair a bit earlier and before the 30-minute wait after Sunset. This event is favorable for our viewing area. Landscape photographers may get some interesting landscape images with the pair of the bright planets.
March’s 1st Quarter Moon:
On Tuesday, 28 March, in the early evening, the 1st Quarter Moon will be in its best position for the year. This 1st Quarter Moon is at its highest position in the sky for the year which is a great time to observe this Moon in binoculars and telescopes. You can start observing the Moon about 30 minutes after Sunset. If its cloudy on the 28 March; either the day before or the day after will still offer an excellent placed Moon for observations. Also, this would be a good time to take a look at the Planet Venus in a telescope too. This 1st Quarter Moon is very favorably placed for observations in our viewing area.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society