March Bright Planets and Stars
The Moon, the Earth’s limb, and thin blue atmosphere are seen in this photograph taken by an Expedition 51 crew member.NASA
Welcome the Almanac Sky Watch for March 2019! We’re here to help backyard stargazers navigate the night sky—from bright planets to constellations.
Sky Watch March 2019
by Bob Berman, as featured in The 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac
- Mercury hovers low in the west during the first few evenings of March.
- On March 1 before sunrise, look southwest. See three visible planets Saturn, Venus, and Jupiter. Saturn is just to the left of the crescent Moon. With a backyard telescope, the rings of Saturn and the bands of Jupiter are clearly visible.
- On March 2 before sunrise, look east. The thin crescent Moon passes to the right of dazzling Venus. At 26 days old, the moon will be a pretty sliver about 12% illuminated.
- On March 10, 11 and 12, the waxing crescent Moon sweeps to the south of the red planet Mars. On the evening of the 10th, the Moon will be shining beneath Mars in the western sky. The planet will appear like a reddish star above the Moon and fairly easy to see in a dark sky. One day later (March 11), the Moon closes the gap between itself and the red planet Mars.
- Earth stands sideways to the Sun on the 20th. This is the vernal equinox, marking the start of spring, which occurs at 5:58 p.m., shortly before the Sun sets at precisely the cardinal direction of due west.
When you look up at the brightly-lit sliver of a crescent Moon, ever noticed that you can still see the rest of the Moon’s disc faintly illuminate? This is called “Earthshine.” The glow is caused by sunlight reflected off the Earth, especially on the darker portion of a crescent Moon. Earthshine is especially noticeable near the vernal equinox.
Image: The New Moon in the Old Moon’s Arms. Taken on the vernal equinox. Credit: NASA/M. Taha Ghouchkanlu
The Full Moon on the Spring Equinox
This year, the March 20 equinox comes less than 4 hours before the full moon of March, making this the closest coincidence of the March equinox and full moon since March 20, 2000. It’s also a “supermoon,” the third and final supermoon (perigee Moon) of 2019.
The constellations of spring will be making their appearance this month, while the stars of winter slip below the horizon until their return later in the year.
- Orion, the Hunter, brightest of all constellations, is well placed for viewing in mid-March. This is the time of year when Orion stands straight upright due south. The three stars of Orion’s belt form a straight horizontal line, with ruddy star Betelgeuse above them and blue-white Rigel below.
- On any March evening, look for the Big Dipper shining in the northeast sky. It’s one of the most recognizable star patterns. See how to find the Big Dipper.
- Look straight overhead for the Gemini twins. The two brightest stars are the heads of the brothers, Castor and Pollux. At this time of year, the stick figures of the Twins are easy to spot, standing upright and holding hands. On March 15 and 16, 2019, use the Moon to find the two stars; the waxing gibbous Moon will hover just south of the twins.
- From Gemini, we move left and downward to the tiny constellation Canis Minor, the Lesser Dog. Only the presence of the bright star Procyon makes Canis Minor noteworthy. Your eyes will most likely be drawn to the bright star Sirius in Canis Major, the Greater Dog. Sirius is more than just an ordinary bright star; it is the brightest star in the night sky. Here’s how to find Sirius and the Dogs.
See our March Sky Map for a free, printable star chart to navigate the night sky!