(Please note all times are UT unless otherwise stated and are based on an observing location of Belfast and covers the month of March)
At the start of the month, the Sun rises at 07:15 and sets at 18:00. By month's end, it rises at 07:00 ST and sets at 20:00 ST. Summer Time begins at 01:00 on the morning of the 25th with the clocks going forward one hour.
4th pm Venus and Mercury – distance 1.2°.
28th pm Venus and Uranus – distance 4 arc minutes.
Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation on the 15th and is visible in the evening sky for the first 3 weeks of the month. At the start of the month, it sets at 18:55 and is mag -1.3. On the 15th, it sets at 20:15 and is mag -0.2.
Venus is visible in the evening sky during the month. At the start of the month, it is mag -3.8 and sets at 19:00. At month’s end it is mag -3.8 and sets at 21:45 ST.
Mars is at western quadrature on the 24th and is a morning object this month, moving from Ophiuchus to Sagittarius. At the start of the month, it rises at 03:30 and is mag +0.8. At month’s end, it rises at 03:55 ST and is mag +0.3 during the month.
Jupiter is a morning object this month in Libra. It rises at 01:00 at the start of the month and by month’s end, it rises at 23:50 ST. It brightens from mag -2.0 to mag -2.2 during the month.
Saturn is at western quadrature on the 29th and is visible as a morning object this month in Sagittarius. At the start of the month, it rises at 04:40 and by month’s end, it rises at 03:50 ST. It brightens from mag +0.6 to mag +0.5 during the month.
Uranus is visible in the evening sky this month in Pisces. During the month, it is visible as soon as darkness falls and sets at 21:25 ST by month’s end. It maintains its brightness at mag +5.9 and lies near to Torcularis Septentrionalis (Omicron (ο) Piscium, mag +4.3) during the month.
Neptune is conjunction on the 4th and is not visible this month.
The full moon is on the 2nd (00:52) with the last quarter moon on the 9th (11:20). The new moon is on the 17th (13:12) with the first quarter moon on the 24th (15:35). There is a 2nd full moon on the 31st (13:37 ST).
1st the 99% waxing gibbous and Regulus (Alpha (α) Leonis, mag +1.4) between approximately 06:00 and 06:50.
22nd/23rd the 32% waxing crescent and Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri, mag +0.9) between approximately 23:30 and 00:15.
4h pm the 89% waning gibbous lies NE of Spica (Alpha (α) Virginis, mag +1.0) at 23:00.
7th am the 73% waning gibbous lies N of Jupiter at 01:00.
10th am the 43% waning crescent lies NE of Mars at 05:00.
11th am the 34% waning crescent lies NE of Saturn at 05:00.
18th pm the 2% waxing crescent lies SE of Mercury and Venus at 19:00.
19th pm the 6% waxing crescent lies SE of Uranus at 19:00.
28th pm, the 91% waxing gibbous lies E of Regulus (Alpha (α) Leonis, mag +1.4) at 21:00.
31st pm, the 99% waning gibbous lies N of Spica (Alpha (α) Virginis, mag +1.0) at 22:00.
The best time to observe meteor showers is when the moon is below the horizon; otherwise its bright glare limits the number you will see especially the fainter ones. Below is a guide to this month's showers.
There are no major meteor showers this month.
There may be additional minor showers this month, details of which can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section.
There are no bright asteroids at opposition this month.
Finder charts and further information about other fainter asteroids can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section.
There are no bright comets this month.
Finder charts and further information about the above and other fainter comets can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section. Any of the above estimates are based on current information at the time of writing the guide and can be wrong - “Comets are like cats; they have tails, and they do precisely what they want”, David H Levy.
On the deep sky front this month, galaxies M81 and M82 can be observed in Ursa Major. In Andromeda, M31 - The Andromeda galaxy can be observed along with its satellite galaxies M32 and M110. In Perseus, there is the open cluster M34 and the excellent Double Cluster - NGC 869 and 884. In Auriga there are three open clusters M36, M37 and M38 and also M35 in Gemini. Taurus has the excellent Pleiades - M45, the Hyades and also M1 - The Crab Nebula. In Orion we have M42 - The Great Orion Nebula and also Cancer with M44 - The Beehive Cluster and M67. Check out the constellation Canes Venatici with the globular cluster - M3 and several galaxies including M51 - the Whirlpool Galaxy and M63 - the Sunflower Galaxy. In Leo, we have several galaxies on view including The Leo Triplet - M65, M66 and NGC 3628. M95, M96 and M105 can also be observed in Leo. The place to really find galaxies is in Virgo. The Virgo Super Cluster can be found here with numerous galaxies on view. Also in Virgo, M104 - the Sombrero Galaxy can be found. In Coma Berenices, there is M64 - the Black-Eye Galaxy.
Always keep an eye out for Aurorae. The Spring or Vernal Equinox is on March 20th which sees the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Other interesting naked eye phenomena to look out for include the Zodiacal Light and the Gegenschein.
Both are caused by sunlight reflecting off dust particles which are present in the solar system. The Zodiacal Light can be seen in the West after evening twilight has disappeared or in the East before the morning twilight. The best time of year to see the phenomenon is late-Feb to early-April in the evening sky and September/October in the morning sky - it's then that the ecliptic, along which the cone of the zodiacal light lies, is steepest in our skies. The Gegenschein can be seen in the area of the sky opposite the sun. To view either, you must get yourself to a very dark site to cut out the light pollution. When trying to observe either of these phenomena, it is best to do so when the moon is below the horizon. A new appendix has been added explaining some of the more technical terms used in the guide.
The ZHR or Zenithal Hourly Rate is the number of meteors an observer would see in one hour under a clear, dark sky with a limiting apparent magnitude of 6.5 and if the radiant of the shower were in the zenith. The rate that can effectively be seen is nearly always lower and decreases as the radiant is closer to the horizon. The Zenith is the overhead point in the sky.