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March 2020 Celestial Calendar

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#1 Dave Mitsky

Dave Mitsky


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Posted 02 March 2020 - 12:45 AM

March Celestial Calendar by Dave Mitsky

All times, unless otherwise noted, are UT (subtract five hours and, when appropriate, one calendar day for EST and four hours for EDT as of March 8th)

3/1   The Moon is 0.1 degree south of asteroid 4 Vesta, with an occultation occurring in Hawaii, Micronesia, northwest Melanesia, eastern Indonesia, and northern and western Australia, at 6:00; the Moon is 7.0 degrees southeast of the bright open cluster M45 (the Pleiades or Subaru) at 22:00
3/2   The Lunar X (the Purbach or Werner Cross), an X-shaped illumination effect involving various rims and ridges between the craters La Caille, Blanchinus, and Purbach, is predicted to be fully formed at 0:11; the Moon is 3.3 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) at 15:00; First Quarter Moon occurs at 19:57
3/4   The Moon is 1.3 degrees southeast of the bright open cluster M35 in Gemini at 10:00; the Moon is at the ascending node (longitude 95.8 degrees) at 15:00
3/5   The Moon is 8.8 degrees south of the first-magnitude star Castor (Alpha Geminorum) at 19:00
3/6   The Moon is 1.4 degrees north-northeast of the bright open cluster M44 (the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe) at 23:00
3/8   Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins today; the Moon is 3.6 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis) at 11:00; Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun (30.924 astronomical units from the Earth, latitude -1.1 degrees) at 12:00; Venus (magnitude -4.3) is 2.2 degrees north-northwest of Uranus (magnitude +5.9) at 16:00
3/9   Mercury is stationary in right ascension, with prograde (direct) motion to resume, at 8:00; Full Moon (known as the Crow, Lenten, and Sap Moon) occurs at 17:48
3/10 The Moon is at perigee, subtending 33' 28" from a distance of 357,122 kilometers (221,905 miles), at 6:30
3/11 The Sun enters Pisces at longitude 351.6 degrees on the ecliptic at 17:00
3/12 The Moon is 6.8 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis) at 1:00
3/14 Asteroid 27 Euterpe (magnitude +9.4) is at opposition at 18:00
3/15 The Moon is 6.7 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Antares (Alpha Scorpii) at 6:00
3/16 Last Quarter Moon occurs at 9:34; Mercury is at the descending node through the ecliptic plane at 20:00
3/17 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Io’s shadow follows Ganymede’s) begins at 17:43
3/18 The Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped clair-obscure illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to be visible at 3:11; the Moon is 0.7 degree south of Mars, with an occultation occurring in Kerguelen Island, Antarctica, South Georgia, and southern South America, at 8:00; the Moon is 1.5 degrees south of Jupiter at 10:00; the Moon (magnitude -9.0), Mars (magnitude +1.0), and Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) lie within a circle with a diameter of 1.6 degrees at 10:00; the Moon is 0.9 degree south of Pluto, with an occultation occurring in most of Antarctica, at 15:00
3/19 The Moon is 2.1 degrees southeast of Saturn at 1:00
3/20 Venus is at perihelion (0.7184 astronomical units from the sun) at 3:00; the northern hemisphere vernal equinox occurs at 3:50; the Sun’s longitude is 0 degrees at 3:50; Mars (magnitude +0.9) is 0.7 degree south of Jupiter (magnitude -2.1) at 6:00
3/21 The Moon is 3.4 degrees southeast of Mercury at 21:00
3/23 The Moon is 3.8 degrees southeast of Neptune at 3:00
3/24 Mercury is at greatest western elongation (28 degrees) at 2:00; New Moon (lunation 1203) occurs at 9:28; the Moon is at apogee, subtending 29' 23" from a distance of 406,692 kilometers (252,707 miles), at 15:23; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Io’s shadow follows Ganymede’s) begins at 19:37; Venus is at greatest eastern elongation (46 degrees) at 22:00
3/27 The Moon is 3.8 degrees southeast of Uranus at 1:00; Venus is at dichotomy (50% illuminated) at 1:00; Mercury is at aphelion (0.4667 astronomical units from the Sun) at 5:00
3/28 The Moon is 6.5 degrees southeast of Venus at 16:00
3/29 The Moon is 6.7 degrees southeast of M45 at 4:00; the Moon is 0.2 degree south of asteroid 4 Vesta, with an occultation occurring in northern Polynesia with the exception of Hawaii, Micronesia, the Philippines, portions of southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the southern Indian Ocean, at 7:00; the Moon is 3.5 degrees north of Aldebaran at 22:00
3/31 The Lunar X (the Purbach or Werner Cross) is predicted to be fully formed at 13:25; the Moon is 1.0 degree southeast of M35 at 17:00; the Moon is at the ascending node (longitude 92.7 degrees) at 17:00; Mars (magnitude +0.8) is 0.9 degree southeast of Saturn (magnitude +0.7) at 18:00; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Ganymede’s shadow follows Io’s) begins at 19:37

Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762), Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), Josef von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), John Herschel (1792-1871), Percival Lowell (1855-1916), Albert Einstein (1879-1955), and Walter Baade (1893-1960) were born this month.

Titan, Saturn’s largest satellite, was discovered on March 25, 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens.  The English astronomer Edward Pigott discovered the spiral galaxy M63 (the Black Eye Galaxy) on March 23, 1779.  The English astronomer Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781.  The grand design spiral galaxy M101was discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain on March 27, 1781.  Asteroid 2 Pallas was discovered by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers on March 28, 1802.  Asteroid 4 Vesta was discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers on March 29, 1807.  The first photograph of the Moon was taken on March 23, 1840.  The Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek discovered Comet C/1973 E1 (Kohoutek) on March 7, 1973.  The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977.  The Spanish amateur astronomer Francisco Garcia Diaz discovered supernova SN 1993 in the spiral galaxy M81 (Bode's Galaxy) on March 28th, 1993.

The zodiacal light should be visible in the western sky after sunset from dark locations after March 11th.  An article on the zodiacal light can be found on pages 48 and 49 of the March 2020 issue of Sky & Telescope.

Information on Iridium flares and passes of the ISS,  the USAF’s X-37B, the HST, Starlink, and other satellites can be found at http://www.heavens-above.com/

The Moon is 6.4 days old, is illuminated 32.3%, subtends 29.8 arc minutes, and is located in the constellation of Aries at 0:00 UT on March 1st.  The Moon attains its greatest northern declination (+23.4 degrees) for the month on March 5th and greatest southern declination (-23.4 degrees) on March 18th.  Longitudinal libration is at a maximum of +7.5 degrees on March 16th.  It’s at a minimum of -7.8 degrees on March 5th.  Latitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.5 degrees on March 24th and a minimum of -6.5 degrees on March 11th.  Favorable librations occur for the following craters: Inghirami (March 8th), Pingré (March 9th), Casatus (March 10th), and Boguslawsky (March 11th).  The largest Full Moon of the year occurs on March 9th.  Large tides will take place in the days following the Full Moon.  New Moon occurs on March 24th.  The Moon is at perigee (at a distance of distance 56.00 Earth-radii) on March 10th and at apogee (at a distance of 63.76 Earth-radii), the farthest of the year, on March 24th.  The Moon will occult asteroid 4 Vesta on March 1st and March 29th and Mars on March 18th from certain parts of the world.   Browse http://www.lunar-occ...ota/iotandx.htm for information on lunar occultation events.  Visit https://saberdoesthe...does-the-stars/ for tips on spotting extreme crescent Moons and http://www.curtrenz.com/moon06.html for Full Moon data.  Consult http://time.unitariu...moon/where.html or download http://www.ap-i.net/avl/en/start for current information on the Moon.  See https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4768 for a lunar phase and libration calculator and https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4768 for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Quickmap.  Click on https://www.calendar...ndar/2020/march for a lunar phase calendar for this month. Times and dates for the lunar crater light rays predicted to occur this month are available at http://www.lunar-occ...o/rays/rays.htm

The Sun is in Aquarius on March 1st at 0:00 UT.  It enters Pisces on March 11th.  The Sun crosses the celestial equator at 3:50 UT on March 20th, bringing spring to the northern hemisphere.  At the equinox, the Sun is located in Aries and has a longitude of zero degrees.

Brightness, apparent size, illumination, distance from the Earth in astronomical units, and location data for the planets and Pluto on March 1st: Mercury (magnitude +3.7, 10.6", 4%, 0.63 a.u., Aquarius), Venus (magnitude -4.3, 18.8", 63%, 0.89 a.u., Pisces), Mars (magnitude +1.1, 5.5", 91%, 1.71 a.u., Sagittarius), Jupiter (magnitude -2.0, 34.2", 99%, 5.77 a.u., Sagittarius), Saturn (magnitude +0.7, 15.5", 100% illuminated, 10.73 a.u., Sagittarius), Uranus (magnitude +5.9, 3.4", 100% illuminated, 20.58 a.u. on March 16th, Aries), Neptune (magnitude +8.0, 2.2", 100% illuminated, 30.92 a.u. on March 16th, Aquarius), and Pluto (magnitude +14.3, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 34.47 a.u. on March 16th, Sagittarius).

In the evening, Venus and Uranus can be seen in the west.  Mercury is in the east and Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are in the southeast in the morning sky.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all located to the east of the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius this month.  The three planets span nineteen degrees along the ecliptic on the morning of March 1st.  By March 18th, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the waning crescent Moon lie within ten degrees of each other.  The closest grouping of the three planets since April 14, 2000, when they were less than five degrees apart, takes place on March 31st.  For more on this planetary massing, listen to this month’s Sky & Telescope podcast March 2020: A Planet Trio and More! at https://skyandtelesc...oAMu4Uc3KPhx2P8

During March, Mercury increases in brightness from magnitude +3.7 to magnitude 0.0.  It shrinks in apparent size from 10.6 arc seconds to 6.7 arc seconds but increases in illumination from 4% to 62%.  Mercury is stationary on March 9th, is at the descending node on March 16th, reaches greatest western elongation on March 24th, and is at aphelion on March 27th.  The Moon passes less than four degrees southeast of Mercury on March 21st.  Southern hemisphere observers are favored during this apparition.

Venus increases in magnitude from -4.3 to -4.5 and increases in angular size from 18.8 arc seconds to 25.2 arc seconds during March.  It decreases in illumination from 63% to 48%.  The brightest planet is 50% illuminated on March 26th.  Venus is located in eastern Pisces in early March, passes through Aries, and finishes the month in western Taurus a few degrees below M45 (the Pleiades).  Venus is at perihelion on March 19th and is at greatest eastern elongation on March 24th, at which time it will be 19 degrees north of the Sun in declination.  The waning crescent Moon passes seven degrees south of the planet on March 28th.

Mars brightens to magnitude +0.8 and increases in angular size to 6.4 arc seconds.  The apparent brightness of Mars exceeds magnitude +1.0 on March 12th.  The waning crescent Moon passes less than one degree south of Mars on March 18th and will occult Mars from some parts of the world.  Mars passes within one degree of Jupiter on March 20th and within one degree of Saturn on March 31st.  The Red Planet lies between the two gas giants on the morning of March 26th.  Mars departs Sagittarius and enters Capricornus on March 30th.  Mars and Jupiter are separated by six degrees on March 31st.

Jupiter increases in brightness from magnitude -2.0 to magnitude -2.1 and grows in apparent size from 34.2 arc seconds to 36.9 arc seconds this month.  The waning crescent Moon passes less than two degrees south of the planet on March 18th.  Jupiter and Mars are separated by just 42 arc minutes on the morning of March 20th.  Transits by Callisto take place on March 14th and March 31st.  Double Galilean shadow transits take place on March 17th, March 24th, and March 31st.  Data on these and other Galilean satellite events is available online at http://www.shallowsky.com/jupiter/ and https://skyandtelesc...watching-tools/ and on page 51 of the March 2020 issue of Sky & Telescope.  Click on http://www.skyandtel...watching-tools/ or consult pages 50 and 51 of the March 2020 issue of Sky & Telescope to determine transit times of the central meridian by the Great Red Spot.  Additional information on Jupiter can be found at https://curtrenz.com/jupiter.html

During March, Saturn’s equatorial diameter measures 16 arc seconds.  Its rings span 37 arc seconds.  Saturn exits Sagittarius and enters Capricornus in the middle of the month.  The waning crescent Moon passes about two degrees south of the Ringed Planet on the morning of March 19th.  Click on https://curtrenz.com/saturn.html for a wealth of information on Saturn.  For information on the major satellites of Saturn, browse https://skyandtelesc...watching-tools/

Uranus and Venus are separated by 2.2 degrees on the evenings of March 7th and March 8th.  The Moon passes less than four degrees south of the seventh planet on the night of March 26th.  See http://www.curtrenz.com/uranep.html for additional information on Uranus.  A finder chart for Uranus can be found at http://www.nakedeyep....com/uranus.htm

Click on https://skyandtelesc...watching-tools/ for JavaScript utilities that will illustrate the positions of the five brightest satellites of Uranus.

Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on March 8th and will not be visible again until April.

Pluto is not a viable target this month.

For more on the planets and how to locate them, browse http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/

Comet C/2017 T2 (PanSTARRS) brightens as it travels northeastward through Cassiopeia during March.  It passes about two degrees northwest of IC 1805 (the Heart Nebula) on March 7th.  However, moonlight will interfere with observing the comet until March 13th.  Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ and http://www.aerith.ne...t/future-n.html for additional information on comets visible this month.

Asteroid 4 Vesta shines at eighth magnitude as it travels northeastward through western Taurus this month.  The main belt asteroid passes close to a sixth-magnitude field star on March 11th and again on March 26th.  Asteroid 27 Euterpe (magnitude +9.4) is the brightest asteroid reaching opposition this month.  Asteroids brighter than magnitude +11.0 that are also at opposition this month include 516 Amherstia (magnitude +10.7) on March 1st, 115 Thyra (magnitude +10.9) on March 7th, 78 Diana (magnitude +10.6) on March 16th, and 71 Niobe (magnitude +10.7) on March 27th.  Consult http://britastro.org...s_asteroid.html for finder charts and http://www.curtrenz.com/asteroids.html to learn more about a select number of asteroids. 

A wealth of current information on solar system celestial bodies is posted at and http://nineplanets.org/

Various events taking place within our solar system are discussed at http://www.bluewater...ed-4/index.html

Information on the celestial events transpiring each week can be found at http://astronomy.com/skythisweek and https://skyandtelesc...ky-at-a-glance/

Free star maps for March can be downloaded at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html and http://www.telescope...thly-Star-Chart

Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) has rebounded from a historic dimming over the past four months.  For more on this unusual event, see https://www.nature.c...586-020-00561-z and https://www.universe...ghtening-again/ and https://www.syfy.com...ght-on-schedule

The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.4, on March 3rd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 28th, and 31st.  Consult https://skyandtelesc...g-tools/page/2/ for the times of the eclipses.  Favorable dates for observing Algol at mid-eclipse from the eastern United States include March 2nd (7:45 p.m. EDT or 0:45 UT March 3rd), March 20th (1:40 a.m. EDT or 5:40 UT), and March 22nd (10:30 p.m. EDT or 2:30 UT March 23rd).  For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.i.../sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstatio...rs2/algol3.htm 

Data on current supernovae can be found at http://www.rochester...y.org/snimages/

It is possible to observe all 109 (or 110) Messier objects during a single night around the time of the vernal equinox, if the Moon phase and local latitude are favorable.  For information on running a so-called Messier Marathon, browse http://messier.seds....n/marathon.html and http://www.richardbe...t/marathon.html

Information on observing some of the more prominent Messier galaxies is available at http://www.cloudynig...ur-astronomers/

Finder charts for the Messier objects and other deep-sky objects are posted at https://freestarcharts.com/messier and https://freestarcharts.com/ngc-ic and http://www.cambridge...nuary-march.htm

Telrad finder charts for the Messier Catalog are posted at http://www.custerobs...cs/messier2.pdf and http://www.star-shin...ssierTelrad.htm


Telrad finder charts for the SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC are available at http://sao64.free.fr...ataloguesac.pdf


Deep-sky object list generators can be found at https://dso-browser.com/ and http://www.virtualcolony.com/sac/ and https://tonightssky.com/MainPage.php

Free sky atlases can be downloaded at http://www.deepskywa...-atlas-full.pdf and https://www.cloudyni...ar-charts-r1021 and https://allans-stuff.com/triatlas/

Thirty binary and multiple stars for March: Struve 1173, Struve 1181, Struve 1187, Zeta Cancri, 24 Cancri, Phi-2 Cancri, Iota-1 Cancri, Struve 1245, Iota-2 Cancri, 66 Cancri, Struve 1327 (Cancer); Struve 1270, Epsilon Hydrae, 15 Hydrae, 17 Hydrae, Theta Hydrae, 27 Hydrae, Struve 1347, Struve 1357, Struve 1365 (Hydra); 3 Leonis, Struve 1360, 6 Leonis, Omicron Leonis (Leo); Struve 1274, Struve 1282, Struve 1333, 38 Lyncis, Struve 1369 (Lynx); h4046 (Puppis)

Notable carbon star for March: T Cancri (Cancer)

Thirty-five deep-sky objects for March: M44, M67, NGC 2775 (Cancer); Abell 33, M48, NGC 2610, NGC 2642, NGC 2811, NGC 2835, NGC 2855, NGC 2935, NGC 2992, NGC 3052, NGC 3078 (Hydra); NGC 2903, NGC 2916, NGC 2964, NGC 2968, NGC 3020 (Leo); NGC 2859, NGC 3003, NGC 3021 (Leo Minor); NGC 2683 (Lynx); NGC 2567, NGC 2571 (Puppis); M81, M82, NGC 2639, NGC 2654, NGC 2681, NGC 2685, NGC 2742, NGC 2768, NGC 2787, NGC 2841, NGC 2880, NGC 2950, NGC 2976, NGC 2985 (Ursa Major)

Top ten binocular deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2571, NGC 2683, NGC 2841, NGC 2903, NGC 2976

Top ten deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2654, NGC 2683, NGC 2835, NGC 2841, NGC 2903

Challenge deep-sky object for March: Abell 30 (Cancer)

The objects listed above are located between 8:00 and 10:00 hours of right ascension.


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