The Sun begins the month in the constellation of Aquarius but crosses the border into Pisces
on the 12th at around 15h. It is climbing steeply now and daylight increases rapidly. On March 20th at 03h50 the Vernal Equinox occurs, when the Sun is directly overhead at the earth’s equator. The Sun-Earth distance
at the time is 148,989,865 km. The astronomical season of spring begins in the northern hemisphere, and lasts for 92.74 days. If the earth had no atmosphere, day and night at this time would be exactly equal all over the planet except at the poles, but due
to atmospheric refraction, this scenario occurs some days earlier.
March is the best month to observe the mysterious Zodiacal Light during evenings when the Moon is not present in the sky
and you are well away from light pollution. Look towards the west when twilight has faded and you should see a faint cone of light pointing southwards at a steep angle of 60°. This year, the best time to observe the zodiacal light is from the 10th
to the 25th. This phenomenon is caused by the Sun illuminating the disc of fine dust, which is the remnant of solar system formation 4.5 thousand million years ago.
The Moon is at perigee, its nearest to the Earth, at 06h00 on the 10th.
It is at apogee,
its furthest from the Earth, at 15h00 the 24th.
First Quarter takes place at 19h58 on March 2nd in the constellation of
Taurus, 3° north of Aldebaran (alpha Tauri), the constellation’s brightest star and is one of the highest First Quarter Moons of the year.
Moon is on the 9th at 17h48 near the Leo/Virgo border. This Moon was known, by our Anglo Saxon ancestors, as “The Moon of Lengthening Days”, (= the Lent Full Moon).
Last Quarter Moon, is on March 16th at 09h35 at the Ophiuchus/Sagittarius border, and is one of the lowest Last Quarter Moons of the year.
New Moon is on the 24th at 09h29, on the Pisces/Cetus border, where it passes 5° south of the sun.
(the faint glow on the night hemisphere of the Moon caused by reflected sunlight from the Earth), may be seen during the evenings on the dark hemisphere of the waxing crescent from the 25th to the end of the month, and on the waning crescent from
the 17th to the 23rd.
Although Mercury reaches its greatest elongation west of the Sun (28°) on the 24th, the planet lies very low in the morning twilight sky. Scanning with binoculars an hour before sunrise during the first
week of the month, it may be possible to glimpse this elusive little world, low in the ESE sky; but it will be close to the horizon and beware of sunrise. The horizon needs to be clear of haze. Beware of the Sun!!!
During the month Venus sets over four hours after the Sun, and is a splendid sight in the fading evening twilight in the west. Once it gets dark, the planet casts a shadow providing there is no moonlight or
artificial light nearby. Hold your finger between a sheet of white paper and the planet to see the delicate shadow of your finger cast by Venus, which is the third brightest celestial object in the sky, after the Sun and the Moon. Venus reaches its greatest
elongation east of the Sun (46°) on the 24th. During the evening of the 28th, Venus and the waxing crescent Moon may be seen side by side in the western sky; the two are separated by 7°, just below the Pleiades ( ‘The 7
Sisters’ star cluster(. Earthshine on the night hemisphere of the waxing crescent Moon will enhance the spectacle. On the 8th at 19h00 Venus is 2.2° north of Uranus in the constellation of Aries.
Mars rises two hours before the Sun during March in the constellation of Sagittarius, and on the 20th lies just less than 1° (two moon-widths) south of Jupiter. On the morning of the 18th
Mars lies less than a degree north of the Moon and almost 2° north of Jupiter.
At around 05.30, there is a selection of Solar System objects low in the SE sky, consisting of, from left to right, the waning
crescent Moon with earthshine (very close to the horizon), Saturn, Pluto (visible only in powerful telescopes), Jupiter and Mars. The respective magnitudes of the planets are: Saturn +1.2, Pluto +14.3, Jupiter -2.0, Mars +0.9.
Jupiter is the brightest of the retinue of planets visible in the morning sky, rising 2 hours before the Sun throughout the month. The waning crescent Moon lies 1.5° to the south
of Jupiter on the morning of the 18th, with Mars between the two.
Remember to look for the four Galilean satellites through firmly fixed binoculars as they change position from night to night.
Saturn, the most easterly of the planetary quartet, may be seen in the two hours before sunrise during March. It lies on the Sagittarius/Capricornus border,
and is in conjunction with the Moon, 2° north of the latter on the morning of the 19th. The northern surface of the rings is still well placed for observation. The rings are readily visible in small telescopes.
Uranus is an evening object in Aries and shines at magnitude +5.9. As mentioned earlier, it is in conjunction with Venus on the evening of the 8th. Uranus lies 2° south
For the path of Uranus, go to the Remote Planets page accessible via the Menu.
Aquarius is too near the Sun to be observed this month. The path of Neptune may be seen on the Remote Planets page of these Sky Notes.
Constellations visible in
the south around midnight, mid-month, are as follows: Leo, the western part of Virgo, Crater, and Hydra. The Plough (Big Dipper), which is part of the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is at the zenith, directly overhead.
Clocks go forward an hour in the morning of Sunday March 29th (and change back on October 25th)
All times are GMT 1° is one finger width at arm’s length.
The phenomena of the month : MARCH 2020
Times are given in UT for SCARBOROUGH (0° 25' 0" W, 54° 16' 3" N, zone UT).
Date Hour Description of the
yyyy mm dd hh:mm
2020 03 02 19:57 FIRST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2020 03 02 22:57 Minimum of the variable star
Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 05 01:09 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 03 05 18:03 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 03 05 19:46 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 05 22:35 Close encounter between the Moon and Pollux (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 5.7°)
2020 03 06 21:49 Close encounter between the Moon and M 44 (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 0.6°)
2020 03 07 07:46 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
03 08 12:25 CONJUNCTION between Neptune and the Sun (geoc. dist. centre to centre = 1.0°)
2020 03 08 16:36 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 08
17:46 Close encounter between Venus and Uranus (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 2.2°)
2020 03 09 17:48 FULL MOON
2020 03 10 06:33 Moon at perigee (geocentric dist.
= 357122 km)
2020 03 10 11:31 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 03 11 02:50 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
03 11 13:25 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 12 05:23 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 03 14 10:14 Minimum of the variable star Algol
2020 03 14 17:58 Opposition of the asteroid 27 Euterpe with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.229 AU; magn. = 9.4)
2020 03 15 05:50 Close encounter between the
Moon and Antares (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 5.7°)
2020 03 16 09:34 LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2020 03 16 11:38 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 03 17 07:04 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 18 04:45 Beginning of occultation of 49-chi3 Sgr (magn. = 5.45)
03 18 05:10 End of occultation of 49-chi3 Sgr (magn. = 5.45)
2020 03 19 09:37 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 03 20 03:00 Venus at its perihelion (distance
to the Sun = 0.71845 AU)
2020 03 20 03:50 SPRING EQUINOX
2020 03 20 03:53 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
03 20 06:20 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2020 03 20 10:45 Close encounter between Mars and Jupiter (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 0.7°)
2020 03 20 15:08
Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 03 21 20:26 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 03 23 00:42 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 23 05:16 Close encounter between Mars and Pluto (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 0.0°)
2020 03 24 00:00 GREATEST WESTERN ELONGATION of Mercury (27.8°)
2020 03 24 06:00 GREATEST EASTERN ELONGATION of Venus (46.0°)
2020 03 24 09:28 NEW MOON
2020 03 24 15:23 Moon at apogee (geocentric dist.
= 406692 km)
2020 03 25 21:31 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 26 13:51 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 03 27 05:00 Mercury at its aphelion (distance to the Sun = 0.46671 AU)
2020 03 27 05:13 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 03 27 16:24 Opposition
of the asteroid 71 Niobe with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.336 AU; magn. = 10.4)
2020 03 28 18:21 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 29 19:18 Beginning
of occultation of 74-epsilon Tau (magn. = 3.53)
2020 03 29 20:28 End of occultation of 74-epsilon Tau (magn. = 3.53)
2020 03 29 22:45 Close encounter between the Moon and
Aldebaran (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 2.9°)
2020 03 30 18:46 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 03 30 22:50 Beginning of occultation of 114 Tau (magn.
2020 03 30 23:21 End of occultation of 114 Tau (magn. = 4.88)
2020 03 31 15:10 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 03 31 17:46 Close encounter between Mars and Saturn (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 0.9°)
Generated using COELIX software