Mars in March: A sight in the sky

By Francis Parnell

During March, the red planet Mars passes close to the Pleiades, the Moon visits Antares and Aldebaran and Spring finally arrives! About an hour after sunset on the 4th, look southwest, almost overhead, to find Mars 2.5 degrees lower left of the Pleiades. It’s a neat sight with your eyes alone, but binoculars or a small, wide-field telescope shows many more Pleiads and gives an unforgettable view. Mars and the Pleiades won’t be this close again until 2038! Just before dawn on the 5th, look south to observe the last quarter Moon about 5 degrees from Antares, the red supergiant star that’s the Heart of Scorpius, the Scorpion. At dusk on the 18th, and high in the southwest sky, find the waxing crescent Moon, Aldebaran, red Mars, and the Pleiades arranged in a neat parallelogram. High in the southwest at dusk on the 19th, the waxing lunar crescent has moved past Mars and is about 3 degrees left of the red planet. With Aldebaran, the Eye of Taurus, about 6 degrees lower left, the trio forms a nice celestial triangle. The Sun is directly over the Equator at the Equinox at 5:37 a.m. on the 20th and Spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere. Look high in the southeast on the 25th to spot the 90 percent illuminated Moon about 4 degrees left of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, the Lion. The full Moon this month occurs on the 28th. Native Americans named it the “Worm Moon” because the ground softens and earthworms began to reappear, which invited robins to return. More northerly tribes called it the “Full Crow Moon,” when the cawing of the crows signaled the end of winter. Have a good Spring and “Keep looking up!”

Author: Rachel Howell

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