Here is a listing of planetary events you’ll want to look for during the month of March. All times are listed as Eastern Time for the Northern Hemisphere.
Take note that we sometimes will use angular degrees to define the separation between two objects, such as (for example) the Moon and a bright planet. Keep in mind that the width of your clenched fist, held at arm’s length, measures roughly 10°.
March 2-3—Mars hangs high in the west at dusk. Drifting eastward through Taurus, it has diminished to a faint little nothing compared to what it was just a few months ago. On these two evenings you’ll find it passing 2½° southeast of the beautiful Pleiades star cluster.
March 5—Jupiter and Mercury are barely above the east-southeast horizon during dawn, but this morning they’re engaged in a very close conjunction, separated by just 0.35°. Mercury (magnitude +0.1) will sit just to the upper left of much brighter Jupiter (magnitude -2.0); the solar system’s biggest planet handily outshines the smallest by a factor of 7. Binoculars will prove to be most beneficial in making a sighting of these two planets against the bright twilight backdrop about a half hour before sunrise. Jupiter can be spotted just 5° above the southeast horizon a half hour before sunrise on March 1st, but it’s 13° up at the same stage of dawn on March 31st.
March 5—Last Quarter Moon 8:30 p.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon due to the direct sunlight, the illuminated part is decreasing toward the new Moon phase.
March 6—Mercury stands at greatest elongation, 27° west of the Sun. Now well south of the Sun at this apparition, Mercury after mid-month is too near sunrise for easy observation from mid-northern latitudes.
March 10—A half-hour before sunrise, three planets are strung-out, low across the east-southeast sky, and accompanied this morning by a slender waning crescent Moon, 9 percent illuminated by the sun. Lowest of the planet trio is Mercury. Jupiter is 4½° to Mercury’s upper right while 9° to the upper right of Jupiter is Saturn (magnitude +0.7). Saturn rises minutes after the first light of dawn in early March, and nearly an hour before at month’s end. But its southerly declination will keep it frustratingly low for northern observers. As for the skinny Moon, you’ll find it about 6° to Jupiter’s lower right. Once again, binoculars will improve your chances of sighting this gathering low against the bright twilight sky. Good luck!
March 13—New Moon at 5:21 a.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.
March 19—As darkness falls, you’ll see a wide crescent Moon soaring high in the southwest sky. And situated 3° to its lower right shines Mars. The golden-orange planet begins the month shining just a trifle dimmer than lighter-orange Aldebaran 13° to its left. But Mars continues to fade as its distance from Earth increases and it’s just a tiny dot in most telescopes; barely large enough for useful observations no matter how good your scope or skilled your eye.
March 20—Spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere (and autumn begins in the Southern Hemisphere) at 5:37 a.m. At this time, the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator moving north.
March 21—First Quarter Moon at 10:40 a.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to becoming a full Moon.
March 26—Venus is out of sight for this entire month, as it arrives at superior conjunction today – positioned on the opposite side of the sun as viewed from our Earthly perspective – and hopelessly lost in the solar glare.
March 28—March’s Full Worm Moon at 2:48 p.m. In this phase, the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event and appears full for three days. This is the first full Moon of spring and is thus designated as the “Paschal Moon,” which helps to set the date of Easter. The first Sunday after the Paschal Moon is designated as Easter Sunday. Today is Palm Sunday, so the following Sunday (April 4th) will be Easter.
By Farmers’ Almanac Astronomer Joe Rao. This calendar is adapted from “Skylog,” a regular feature appearing in Natural History magazine written by Mr. Rao since 1995.