Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.
|Thursday||2||Neptune at solar conjunction|
|Friday||3||Moon at perigee|
|Sunday||5||First Quarter Moon occults first magnitude star Aldebaran: visible in central North and Central America, western Caribbean (beginning around 03:00 UT).|
|Tuesday||7||Mercury at superior conjunction|
|Friday||10||Comet 2P/Encke at perihelion|
|Moon occults first magnitude star Regulus: visible in the southern tip of Africa (beginning around 21:30 UT).|
|Friday||17||Saturn at west quadrature|
|Saturday||18||Moon at apogee|
|Monday||20||Earth at equinox: the word equinox means 'equal night' so that on this day, the (centre of the) Sun spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon everywhere on the planet.|
|Last Quarter Moon|
|Saturday||25||Venus at inferior conjunction|
|Sunday||26||Moon occults Neptune: visible in southeastern Asia (08:20 UT mid-occultation)|
|Thursday||30||Moon at perigee|
The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.
The solar south pole is most inclined toward the Earth early this month.
This tiny planet is lost in the Sun's glare as it undergoes superior conjunction on 7 March. It then vaults into the western sky after sunset and is particularly well-placed for viewing for those in northern latitudes.
The evening star is best seen from the northern hemisphere but even here it is descending towards the western horizon. It is lost from sight by mid-month as seen from below the equator but is visible right through inferior conjunction for northern observers. In fact, for a few days right around conjunction on 25 March northern hemisphere observers may be able to see Venus both after sunset and before sunrise!
Mars continues to keep its distance from the Sun, setting mid-evening from northern latitudes and early evening when viewed from the southern hemisphere.
With opposition approaching next month, Jupiter is in the sky virtually all night, rising just after sunset.
Still a morning sky object for northern hemisphere observers, the ringed planet now rises just before midnight for viewers in the south. At west quadrature on 17 March, the interplay of shadows - disc, rings, satellites - in the Saturnian system are at their most pronounced.
This ice giant is getting increasingly difficult to see in the evening twilight as it approaches conjunction with the Sun next month. It sets at almost the exact same time as Jupiter rises.
A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system but potential observers won't get much joy this month. Neptune is at solar conjunction on the second day and lost to view in the glare of the Sun.