March begins with a splendid CONJUNCTION of the two brightest planets as seen from Earth; Venus at magnitude –3.9 and Jupiter at magnitude –2.1. Look west on March 1st for brilliant Venus even before full darkness, and locate Jupiter just a Moon’s width apart, and below and left of Venus! They will remain close on both March 2nd and 3rd, but Venus’s faster orbit speed will take it above and away from Venus later in the month. Find a location where the western horizon is clear to enjoy this beautiful sight. The planetary duo will set before 8:30 pm.
Venus is some 127 million miles from Earth right now, while Jupiter is 537 million miles away. Yet their appearing side by side to us now is because they are both in the same direction in the sky from Earth as we look out there. Obviously their respective orbits move them continuously (as does Earth’s orbit). But sometimes that combined motion lines things up just so, that they appear close together in our skies. This is what we call a conjunction. This one in March, will be great —- and Bright!!
While Venus will appear to move away from Jupiter all month, on March 22nd we can look for Jupiter near a crescent Moon. This is another conjunction, and this pair will set about 70 minutes after sunset in the western sky.
There will be 2 occasions for sky-watchers with binoculars to spot Uranus, the 7th planet out from the Sun, and one, though a Gas Giant planet, that is quite dim. It is over a billion miles from the Sun!
On March 24th look for the crescent Moon; than scan below it to find the dim, bluish Uranus at magnitude +5.8. By March 30th Venus will be in conjunction with Uranus. With binoculars Uranus will be seen just a degree below Venus.
Mars is bright among the stars of Taurus the Bull; well up in the western sky. Mars is seen between the horn stars of the Bull. On March 29th Mars, with binoculars, will be found just above M 35, a nice open cluster of stars in Gemini. It will look like Mars is nestled among its stars.
Full Moon comes early this month; on March 7th.
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