Your guide to the night sky this month
Regulus (Alpha ( ) _ Leonis) is occulted by the virtually full Moon at 06:06 UT from the centre of the UK. Reappearance occurs after the Moon and Regulus have set.
The full Moon that occurs at 00:52 UT this morning is the first of two that will occur in March.
Mercury appears 1.1° from Venus in the evening sky. Mag. –3.8 Venus acts as a beacon to locate Mercury, but the Solar System’s innermost planet stands its ground against the evening twilight too, shining away at mag. –1.1.
This morning’s 71% waning gibbous Moon lies 4.75° north of mag. –2.1 Jupiter. Both objects are located in the constellation of Libra at this time and can be seen due south at 04:30 UT.
Today, it’s the turn of mag. +0.7 Mars to be close to the Moon. Spot the Red Planet and the 43% waning crescent Moon 3.5° apart shortly after rising, low in the southeast just after 03:00 UT.
Catch the 34% waning crescent Moon rising just after 04:00 UT and you should be able to spot mag. +0.9 Saturn a little under 2° below and to the southwest of it.
With no moonlight to interfere, the next few evenings are a great time to take our tricky challenge on page 61. This month we’re looking for the subtle cone-shaped glow known as the Zodiacal Light.
Evening planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation today when it will appear to be separated from the Sun by 18.4°.
With the Moon absent in the night sky, this is a great time to try for our Deep Sky Tour targets listed on page 63. This month, we’re taking a look at objects in the eastern part of Canes Ventatici.
The new Moon makes this a great time to explore the region of sky known as the Realm of Galaxies, lying in the asterism known as the Bowl of Virgo. This is where you’ll find the asteroid 18 Melpomene, which you can read about on page 59.
Mag. –3.8 Venus, +0.4 Mercury and a slender 1%-lit waxing crescent Moon form a straight line low in the west after sunset. Venus should be easy to spot: Mercury is 3.8° above and to the right of it, while the Moon is 4.5° below and to the left.
Mars is currently located between the Lagoon Nebula, M8, and the Trifid Nebula, M20. It should be possible to spot this arrangement from around 03:30 UT. Mag. +0.5 Mars will appear low in the southeast at this time.
The centre of the Sun crosses the celestial equator at 16:15 UT, passing from the southern to the northern celestial hemisphere. This is a point in time known as the Northern Hemisphere’s spring, or Vernal, equinox.
The 29%-lit Moon moves through the Hyades open cluster after sunset, passing north of the V-shape’s southern arm. Occulted stars include Aldebaran, which vanishes after 23:30 UT and reappears at 00:15 UT on 23 March.
Locate the Moon with a telescope at around 17:00 UT and see if you can spot the ray across the floor of crater Barrow. A daylight sky will make things a little harder, but it should still be possible to see the effect.
At 01:00 UT this morning the clocks go forward by one hour, marking the start of British Summer Time in the UK.
It should be possible to see the clair-obscur effect known as the Jewelled Handle on the Moon this morning. Conditions are ideal around 01:00 BST (00:00 UT). The effect occurs when the tops of the Montes Jura around Sinus Iridum catch the morning Sun.
Like January this year, March has two full Moons and the second occurs today. Although not the original meaning of the term, the second full Moon in a month is known as a Blue Moon.