March 2017

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Date Event
Wednesday 1
Thursday 2 Neptune at solar conjunction
Friday 3 Moon at perigee
Saturday 4
Sunday 5 First Quarter Moon occults first magnitude star Aldebaran: visible in central North and Central America, western Caribbean (beginning around 03:00 UT).
Monday 6
Tuesday 7 Mercury at superior conjunction
Wednesday 8
Thursday 9
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).
Saturday 11
Sunday 12 Full Moon
Monday 13
Tuesday 14
Wednesday 15
Thursday 16
Friday 17 Saturn at west quadrature
Saturday 18 Moon at apogee
Sunday 19
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
Tuesday 21
Wednesday 22
Thursday 23
Friday 24
Saturday 25 Venus at inferior conjunction
Sunday 26 Moon occults Neptune: visible in southeastern Asia (08:20 UT mid-occultation)
Monday 27
Tuesday 28 New Moon
Wednesday 29
Thursday 30 Moon at perigee
Friday 31

The Solar System

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.

Sun AquariusPisces

The solar south pole is most inclined toward the Earth early this month.

Mercury AquariusPiscesAries

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.

Venus Pisces

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 PiscesAries

Mars continues to keep its distance from the Sun, setting mid-evening from northern latitudes and early evening when viewed from the southern hemisphere.

Jupiter Virgo

With opposition approaching next month, Jupiter is in the sky virtually all night, rising just after sunset.

Saturn Sagittarius

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.

Uranus Pisces

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.

Neptune Aquarius

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.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S