In the Sky This Month
Leo takes its rightful place as the lord of the skies on March nights. The lion is in good view in the east as darkness falls, and springs high across the sky during the night. The bright planet Jupiter trails far behind it, near Spica, the brightest star of Virgo. And the even brighter planet Venus changes addresses during the month. It is the brilliant Evening Star as the month begins, but switches to the morning sky by month’s end.
March 13: Moon and Companions
Look for brilliant Jupiter rising below the almost-full Moon late this evening, with the bright star Spica close to the lower right of Jupiter. Through binoculars, Jupiter’s four big moons look like tiny stars arrayed near the giant planet.
March 14: Moon, Jupiter, and Spica
The dazzling planet Jupiter and the fainter star Spica rise almost even with the Moon this evening. All three objects are within the borders of the constellation Virgo.
March 15: Quasars
Amateur telescopes reveal amazing sights. Perhaps the most amazing looks like an average star. It’s a maelstrom of gas around a massive black hole 2.5 billion light-years away. Known as 3C 273, it’s in the east at nightfall, above the brilliant planet Jupiter.
March 16: Giant Cannibal
Betelgeuse, the bright orange shoulder of Orion, is high in the south-southwest as night falls, above the hunter’s three-star belt. Recent research says that when Betelgeuse was younger, it might have swallowed a companion star as massive as the Sun.
March 17: Venus and Mercury
The Sun’s two closest planets are staging a switcheroo. Mercury is climbing higher into the evening sky, while Venus is dropping out of the sky. Venus is the brilliant “evening star,” with much fainter Mercury close to its lower left tonight.
March 18: Moon, Antares, Saturn
The planet Saturn is in good view early tomorrow. It looks like a bright star to the lower left of the Moon at first light. The bright star Antares stands about the same distance to the lower right of the Moon.
March 19: Vernal Equinox
Those of us in the United States will wake up to a new season tomorrow. Spring begins at 5:29 a.m. CDT, which is the moment of the vernal equinox. It occurs when the Sun crosses Earth’s equator from south to north.