JUPITER’S MOONS MARCH
Using a small scope you’ll be able to spot Jupiter’s biggest moons. Their positions change dramatically during the month, as shown on the diagram. The line by each date on the left represents 00:00 UT. VENUS BEST TIME TO SEE: 1 March, from 18:30 UT ALTITUDE: 24º LOCATION: Pisces DIRECTION: West Venus is a splendid sight at the start of March. Although it’s heading back towards the Sun it remains well positioned until mid month, a result of the steep path of evening ecliptic coupled with the planet being north of this plane. Venus is currently on the part of its orbit closest to Earth. Consequently on 1 March it looks large through a scope, with an apparent diameter of 47 arcseconds. It’s bright too, shining away at mag. –4.5. The planet remains nicely visible until mid March, after which it’s almost as if someone has taken the brakes off. On 16 March, it sets 100 minutes after the Sun and appears almost 1 arcminute across with a phase of just 3% through the eyepiece. By 20 March it sets 70 minutes after the Sun and five days later it reaches inferior conjunction. Amazingly, its position north of the ecliptic brings it back into view in the morning sky quite rapidly. By 31 March it rises an hour before sunrise and shows a 58-arcsecond crescent at just 2% illumination through a scope.
BEST TIME TO SEE: 31 March, 01:50 BST (00:50 UT) ALTITUDE: 30º LOCATION: Virgo DIRECTION: South Jupiter reaches opposition early next month, making March an ideal time to start observing it. At the start of March Jupiter rises around 21:30 UT, reaching its highest point in the sky (culmination), due south at 03:00 UT. By the end of March its rise time is 20:30 BST (19:30 UT) in twilight. On the 31st, it culminates at 01:50 BST (00:50 UT). Through a scope its disc appears 44 arcseconds across on the 31st, and it shines at mag. –2.4. On the evening of the 14th, it rises above the east-southeast horizon with the Moon, at around 21:00 UT.
BEST TIME TO SEE: 31 March, from 05:00 BST (04:00 UT) ALTITUDE: 12.5º LOCATION: Sagittarius DIRECTION: South-southeast
Saturn is a mag. +0.5 morning object for most of the month. It is located in Sagittarius and has a low UK altitude. The rings are well presented, the planet’s north pole being tilted towards Earth by 26.5º. MARS
BEST TIME TO SEE: 1 March, from 19:20 UT ALTITUDE: 23º LOCATION: Pisces DIRECTION: West-southwest The waxing crescent Moon (12% lit) is 5º below and left of mag. +1.3 Mars on 1 March. Look with a pair of binoculars: the 6th-magnitude dot 2º below and slightly right of Mars is Uranus. Mars moves east against the stars for the remainder of the month, helping the planet maintain position against the horizon at the same time of evening. On the 30th the Moon rejoins the planet, its 9%-lit waxing crescent 6º to the east. Telescopically Mars appears a rather disappointing 4.3 arcseconds across, not much bigger than Uranus. URANUS
BEST TIME TO SEE: 1 March, 19:45 UT ALTITUDE: 17º LOCATION: Pisces DIRECTION: West We are now losing Uranus to the rapid growth of the evening twilight. At the start of March the planet is just 17º up as seen from the centre of the UK. When darkness falls at the end of the month, it will no longer be visible. NEPTUNE Not visible this month, being at solar conjunction on 2 March. YOUR BONUS CONTENT Planetary observing forms