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 14th)
3/2 The Moon is at perigee, subtending 32' 42" from a distance of 365,423 kilometers (227,063 miles), at 5:18
3/3 Mercury is at the descending node through the ecliptic plane at 17:00
3/4 Asteroid 4 Vesta (magnitude +5.8) is at opposition in Leo at 18:00
3/5 Mercury is 0.3 degrees north of Jupiter at 7:00; the Moon is 5.0 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Antares (Alpha Scorpii) at 17:00
3/6 The Moon is at the descending node (longitude 255.4 degrees) at 1:00; Last Quarter Moon occurs at 1:30; Mercury is at greatest western elongation (27.3 degrees) at 11:00
3/7 The Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped clair-obscure illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to be visible at 11:44
3/10 The Moon is 3.6 degrees southeast of Saturn at 1:00; the Moon is 3.9 degrees southeast of Jupiter at 18:00; the Moon, Mercury, and Jupiter lie within a circle with a diameter of 5.3 degrees at 22:00
3/11 Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun (30.919 astronomical units from the Earth, latitude -1.1 degrees) at 0:00; the Moon is 3.5 degrees southeast of Mercury at 4:00; the Sun enters Pisces, at longitude 351.6 degrees on the ecliptic, at 23:00
3/13 The Moon is 3.6 degrees southeast of Venus at 4:00; the Moon, Venus, and Neptune lie within a circle with a diameter of 3.9 degrees at 6:00; the Moon is 3.9 degrees southeast of Neptune at 7:00; New Moon (lunation 1215) occurs at 10:21
3/14 Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins today; Mercury is at aphelion (0.4667 astronomical units from the Sun) at 2:00; Venus is 0.4 degrees southeast of Neptune at 5:00; Venus is at its southernmost latitude from the ecliptic plane (-3.4 degrees) at 8:00
3/17 The Moon is 2.5 degrees southeast of Uranus at 5:00
3/18 The Moon is at apogee, subtending 29' 29" from a distance of 405,253 kilometers (251,812 miles), at 5:03
3/19 The Moon is 5.2 degrees southeast of the bright open cluster M45 (the Pleiades or Subaru) in Taurus at 2:00; the Moon is 1.9 degrees southeast of Mars at 20:00; the Moon is 5.1 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) at 20:00
3/20 The Moon is at the ascending node (longitude 73.6 degrees) at 4:00; the northern hemisphere vernal equinox occurs at 9:37; the longitude of the sun is 0.0 degrees at 9:37; 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 visible at 22:09
3/21 Mars is 6.9 degrees north of Aldebaran at 8:00; First Quarter Moon occurs at 14:40; the Moon is 0.7 degrees north of the bright open cluster M35 in Gemini at 17:00
3/23 The Moon is 7.0 degrees south of the first-magnitude star Castor (Alpha Geminorum) at 6:00; the Moon is 3.4 degrees south of the first-magnitude star Pollux (Beta Geminorum) at 11:00
3/24 The Moon is 2.8 degrees north-northeast of the bright open cluster M44 (the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe) in Cancer at 12:00
3/26 The Moon is 4.5 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis) at 4:00; Venus is in superior conjunction with the Sun (1.723 astronomical units from the Earth, latitude -3.2 degrees) at 6:00
3/28 Full Moon (known as the Crow, Lenten, and Sap Moon) occurs at 18:48
3/29 Venus is at its brightest (magnitude -3.9) at 2:00; the Moon is 5.9 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis) at 21:00
3/30 Mercury is 1.3 degrees southeast of Neptune at 4:00; the Moon is at perigee, subtending 33' 10" from a distance of 360,312 kilometers (223,886 miles), at 6:00
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 for two weeks starting on March 1st and again for two weeks starting on March 30th.
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 17.0 days old, is illuminated 97.2%, subtends 32.6 arc minutes, and is located in the constellation of Virgo at 0:00 UT on March 1st. The Moon attains its greatest northern declination (+25.2 degrees) for the month on March 22nd and greatest southern declination (-25.1 degrees) on March 8th. Longitudinal libration is at a maximum of +5.0 degrees on March 10th. It’s at a minimum of -7.3 degrees on March 24th. Latitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.6 degrees on March 13th and a minimum of -6.6 degrees on March 27th. Favorable librations occur for the following craters: Bailly (March 1st), Drygalski (March 2nd), Pingré (March 28th), and Hausen (March 29th). The Curtiss Cross occurs on March 7th and the Lunar X on March 20th. The Lunar X is discussed in an article appearing on page 50 of the March 2021 issue of Sky & Telescope. New Moon occurs on March 13th. The Moon is at perigee (at a distance 57.29 Earth-radii) on March 2nd and at apogee (at a distance 63.54 Earth-radii) on March 18th. 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 https://curtrenz.com/moon.html for Full Moon and other lunar data. Consult http://time.unitariu...moon/where.html for current information on the Moon. Visit http://www.ap-i.net/avl/en/start to download the free Virtual Moon Atlas. Browse https://skyandtelesc...ads/MoonMap.pdf for a lunar map. See https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4768 for a lunar phase and libration calculator and https://quickmap.lro...2vIBvAXwF1SizSg for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Quickmap. Click on https://www.calendar...ndar/2021/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 10:37 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 +0.2, 7.8", 47%, 0.86 a.u., Capricornus), Venus (magnitude -3.9, 9.8", 99%, 1.70 a.u., Aquarius), Mars (magnitude +0.9, 6.4", 90%, 1.47 a.u., Taurus), Jupiter (magnitude -2.0, 33.0", 100%, 5.97 a.u., Capricornus), Saturn (magnitude +0.7, 15.4", 100% illuminated, 10.80 a.u., Capricornus), Uranus (magnitude +5.8, 3.4", 100% illuminated, 20.48 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 +14.4, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 34.73 a.u. on March 16th, Sagittarius).
In the evening, Mars and Uranus can be seen in the west. Mars is in the west at midnight. In the morning sky, Mercury and Jupiter are in the east and Saturn is in the southeast.
The Moon, Mercury, and Jupiter lie within a circle with a diameter of 5.3 degrees on the morning of March 10th. On the morning of March 13th, the Moon, Venus, and Neptune lie within a circle with a diameter of 3.9 degrees.
The best morning apparition of Mercury of the year for southern hemisphere observers continues this month. The innermost planet disappears from view for mid-northern latitudes after the middle of March. During March, Mercury increases in brightness from magnitude +0.2 to magnitude -0.4, while decreasing in apparent size from 7.8 arc seconds to 5.4 arc seconds. It increases in illumination from 47% to 85%. The speediest planet lies 2.5 degrees west of Jupiter on the morning of March 1st. Mercury rises around 5:25 a.m. local time on that date. It passes just 0.3 degrees north of Jupiter on March 5th. Mercury is at the descending node on March 3rd, reaches greatest western elongation on March 6th, and is at aphelion on March 14th. The waning crescent Moon passes less than four degrees southeast of Mercury on March 11st.
Venus is lost in the glare of the Sun this month. It reaches superior conjunction with the Sun on March 26th.
Mars dims to magnitude +1.3 and decreases in angular size to 5.3 arc seconds by the end of March. The Red Planet is located about three degrees due south of M45 as the month begins. During the third week of March, Mars passes north of Melotte 25 (the Hyades). The waxing crescent Moon passes two degrees southeast of Mars on March 19th. Mars lies seven degrees due north of Aldebaran on March 22nd. It passes close to the open cluster NGC 1746 on March 31st.
Jupiter increases in brightness slightly from magnitude -2.0 to magnitude -2.1 and grows in apparent size from 33.0 arc seconds to 34.7 arc seconds this month. Its elongation from the Sun doubles during March. The largest planet rises shortly after 5:30 a.m. local time on the first day of March. Jupiter and Mercury undergo a very close conjunction on March 5th. The waning crescent Moon passes about four degrees south of Jupiter on the morning of March 10th. The shadow of Io transits Jupiter on the morning of March 24th. Data on Galilean satellite events is available online at http://www.shallowsky.com/jupiter/ and https://skyandtelesc...watching-tools/ and on page 51 of the March 2021 issue of Sky & Telescope. Click on http://www.skyandtel...watching-tools/ or consult pages 50 and 51 of the March 2021 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 brightness and angular size change very little. Its elongation from the Sun increases from 33 degrees to 60 degrees this month. Saturn rises about 5:10 a.m. local time on March 1st. The waning crescent Moon passes about four degrees south of the Ringed Planet on the morning of March 10th. 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 is located 3.3 degrees from 29 Arietis on March 1st. By month's end, that distance decreases to 2 degrees. A young crescent Moon passes 3.3 degrees south of the seventh planet on the night of March 16th. 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
Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on March 11th 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/
A summary on the planets for March can be found at https://skynews.ca/m...ts-at-a-glance/
The graphic at https://www.timeandd...lanets/distance displays the apparent and comparative sizes of the planets, along with their magnitudes and distances, for a given date and time.
Comet C/2020 R4 (Atlas) travels northwestward through Capricornus and Aquila during March. The Kuiper Belt comet is located about three degrees northwest of the ninth-magnitude globular cluster M72 on March 1st. The fourth-magnitude optical double star Algedi (Alpha Capricorni) lies to the southwest. Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ and http://www.aerith.ne...t/future-n.html and https://cobs.si/ for additional information on this and other comets visible this month.
Asteroid 4 Vesta shines at sixth magnitude as it heads northwestward through Leo this month. The main belt asteroid passes approximately two degrees north of the spiral galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628 (the Leo Triplet) on March 1st. Vesta reaches opposition on March 4th. On that night, it lies 1.3 degrees northeast of the third-magnitude star Chertan (Theta Leonis). Vesta passes 2.1 degrees due east of 51 Leonis (magnitude +5.5) on March 31st. An article on Vesta that includes a finder chart appears on pages 48 and 49 of the March 2021 issue of Sky & Telescope. Asteroid 116 Sirona (magnitude +10.7) reaches opposition in Leo on March 10th. The eleventh-magnitude barred spiral galaxy NGC 3705 lies to the west of the asteroid on that date. 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.
An informative video discussing astronomical objects worthy of observing each month can be found at https://hubblesite.o...es/tonights-sky
An online interactive star chart appears at https://skyandtelesc...tive-sky-chart/
The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.4, on March 2nd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 22nd, 25th, 27th, and 30th. Consult https://skyandtelesc...inima-of-algol/ or page 50 of the March 2021 issue of Sky & Telescope for the times of the eclipses. Favorable dates for observing Algol at mid-eclipse from the eastern United States include March 1st (11:21 p.m. EST or 3:21 UT March 2nd), March 4th (8:10 p.m. EST or 1:10 UT March 5th), and March 24th (10:55 p.m. EDT or 2:55 UT March 23rd). For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.i.../sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstatio...ars2/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/
Telrad finder charts for the SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC are available at http://sao64.free.fr...ataloguesac.pdf
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.