Welcome to the March night sky. This month we have no bright planets in the evening sky, but at dawn, visible in the south, is Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, all in a line near the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpius. This area also contains the Milky Way and, at the very end of March, Saturn and Mars are very close to each other. This will be a pretty sight, but you will have to get up early to see it.
On March 20, we have the Equinox where in the northern hemisphere the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading north. This marks the end of winter and the beginning of springtime. At this time, the length of the day and night will be equal all over the world.
The night of the 22nd sees the meteor shower called the March Geminids. Unfortunately, the Moon will be bright at that time making faint meteors difficult to see.
On March 25, the clocks go forward one hour, marking the beginning of summertime in most of Europe.
Next month, NASA launches the TESS mission. This stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, and it is the follow up mission to the highly successful Kepler spacecraft. This mission will look at 200,000 stars and hopes to discover at least 2,000 new exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky, 300 of which are expected to be Earth-like. The survey will last two years and will give excellent targets for the James Webb Telescope to investigate when it is launched next year.
This month we also have two full Moons similar to January, but no lunar eclipse this time.
The Moon is full on the 2nd, last quarter on the 9th, new on the 17th, first quarter on the 24th and full again on March 31.
By Clive Jackson
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Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
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To see the March Sky Map click on the pdf link below