All the Gorgeous Stargazing Moments You Won't Want to Miss in March
It's getting warmer and there is a lot to see.
The seasons are changing. More or less. Spring officially arrives on March 20. It might not feel like it everywhere, but it's at least a sign that things are headed in the right direction, especially if you like to go stargazing.
March is full of outstanding stargazing opportunities. This month, you can spot elusive Mercury early in the morning, and you'll have one of your last chances to see the moon run through the winter hexagon, an asterism that's spread far across the sky. We're still waiting for the return of meteor showers, but there is still plenty to see when you're looking up.
If you're lucky enough to land a couple of nice nights this month, here are some of the celestial sights you might want to track down.
March 3: Mars & the Pleiades Are as Close as They'll Get for 17 yearsThe Pleiades star cluster and Mars will have a conjunction that will be the closest they'll get until 2038, per EarthSky. It's also the closest they've been together since January 1991. You'll find the red planet near the cluster sometimes called the Seven Sisters early in the evening. They'll be dropping in the sky as the night wears on, so your best chance to see them together is early in the evening.
Mars has a bright red color, but if you're having trouble finding the pair, the belt of Orion kind of points toward the Pleiades. Follow the line of the belt westward, and you'll find Mars and the star cluster hanging about.
March 5: Jupiter & Mercury Get Close in the MorningEarly on the morning of March 5, you might be able to spot Jupiter and Mercury coming close together. They'll be very low in the sky, so you'll want a clear horizon to the east-southeast. Sky & Telescope recommends looking about half an hour before sunrise.
You may want to use binoculars since the two planets can get lost in the brightening sky. It's not super easy to see, but the biggest and smallest planets in the solar system will be less than a degree apart. Just to the right of that formation, you'll be able to see Saturn as well. You won't spot Jupiter and Mercury this close together again in 2021.
After midnight on March 5, you'll also find the bright star Antares just below and to the left of the moon.
March 8-10: Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon Get TogetherOn these three mornings, you can use the moon to find the three morning planets. The moon will pass by Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn, coming closest on March 10. Jupiter sits in between the other two, with Mercury shining slightly brighter than Saturn. Though, Saturn will sit a little higher in the sky and might be easier to spot than Mercury. EarthSky has a helpful diagram that can show you what to look for in the predawn sky.
The trio are visible just before the sun rises and can get lost in the growing light. It can be helpful to have binoculars to spot the planets if you're having trouble seeing them with the naked eye. You can start looking for them about an hour before sunrise local time.
March 19-23: The Moon Crosses the Winter HexagonEach month throughout the winter, we get the opportunity to watch the moon cross through the winter hexagon, which is sometimes called the winter circle. The large asterism is a group of six of the brightest stars in the winter sky. Over the course of a handful of days, the moon will touch the edge of the hexagon and then pass through it, changing its position a little each night.
The hexagon takes up a lot of the sky to the east-southeast. It includes the recognizable blue of Sirius, sitting at the bottom of the formation; Rigel, at the foot of Orion; bright Aldebaran; Capella, high in the sky; Pollux, one of Gemini's heads; and Procyon in Canis Minor. You can also see the ruddy red of Betelgeuse, the shoulder of Orion, in the middle of the asterism.