Note: All Sky Charts Courtesy of SkyGuide App Unless Otherwise noted.
Events And Naked Eye Viewing
March 2 (Thursday): Ceres Near Occultation With Waxing Crescent Moon. If you had weather issues like I did and missed seeing the February Moon-Ceres occultation, mother nature has arranged a “Do-Over!” Although Ceres will be a tad farther from the Moon this time, it’s still going to be close enough so you can use the Moon as a location finder for this newly designated dwarf planet. An extra added treat will be the alignment of three planets, Venus, Uranus, and Mars. You can’t miss Venus as it’ll be the brightest object in the western sky besides the Moon. Mars will be a bit harder to see and you’ll probably need binoculars or a telescope to see Uranus. FOR SURE, you’ll need at least a small telescope with a high power eyepiece to see 9th magnitude Ceres.
March 4 (Saturday): First Quarter Moon Occults Aldebaran. This is the “Big Event” in March’s night sky! The brightest star in the constellation Taurus The Bull will literally set behind the dark half of the Moon beginning at 8:35 PM MST. You can see this event naked eye, but it’ll be even more dramatic in binoculars or a telescope. At 9:36, the “Eye of the Bull” will re-appear rising over the bright side of the Moon. I suggest you be outside looking at the Moon at least 10 minutes early (8:25 PM before “starset” and 9:26 PM before ‘starrise”) so you won’t miss this bright orange star “touch” the Moon’s surface. The best way to see Aldebaran before it occults the Moon is to make sure your field of view is up and slightly left of the Moon’s dark half, WITHOUT including any part of the Moon’s sunlit half. I’m hoping to have clear skies using my video-eyepiece cam so I can record this encounter between a distant star and our nearest celestial neighbor.
March 12 (Sunday): Daylight Savngs Time Begins for Most of the United States and Europe. Set your clocks one hour ahead to “Spring forward” before you retire Saturday evening. This date also marks the Full Worm Moon. To some American Indian Tribes in the northern parts of North America it was known as the Full Crow Moon as crows began to call out the beginning of Spring. Perhaps more appropriate to the high country in the Rocky Mountains is the Full Crust Moon as the warm daytime Sun melts the remaining snow surface into an icy hard crust. Early American settlers called this the Lenten Moon or Sap Moon after the Christian season of Lent and the time of year for tapping maple trees.
March 14 (Tuesday) through March 31 (Friday): Best Time Period to View the Zodiacal Light. About an hour and half after sunset, look for this eerie triangular shaped glow spiking up from the western horizon. If you live in a light polluted area, you won’t be able to see this phenomena. This will also be your last chance to see the eclipsing double star Algol do one more blink in the evening sky until next winter. It’s now nearer to the WNW horizon during prime viewing hours and, as Spring begins, it’ll be too low in the western sky to get a good look at it.
March 20 (Monday): Vernal or Spring Equinox. For all practical purposes, one can say we’ll have equal day and equal night on this first day of Spring. The Sun will rise almost exactly due east at 7:10 AM MDT an set in the west 12 hours later. From this day on, the Sun will continue its journey rising more north of east and setting more north of west each day until the Summer Solstice.
I’m trying a slightly different approach to binocular viewing for March. I’m including views from around the compass rose so you can look in the direction that’s best for where you live. We’ll start with West because that part of the sky is setting, so you should look there first if there’s something near the horizon you need to see. The other directions will follow depending on how long they’re likely to be in view. I’m also selecting March 15 because that’s the middle of the month. If you view these areas in early March, they will be lower in the east and higher in the west. Later in March, the reverse will be true. Of course, you’ll have to factor in the change to Daylight Savings Time on March 12.
Editor’s Note — Gary Zientara of Taos Pines Ranch near Angel Fire is a former teacher and lifelong amateur astronomer. See more viewing tips at mountsangreobservatory.com.