Well here we are at March already! Spring is approaching, the days are getting longer and we’re hoping the weather also improves! This month we have the potential of a comet being visible to the naked eye, so read through below for details.
There should be something for everyone to enjoy so keep your eyes on the skies!
Monday 4th March – Today is a last quarter Moon and Mercury is in Inferior Conjunction so is not currently visible until towards the end of the month
Tuesday 5th March – The Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 369,955 km (229,879 miles), the closest point in its orbit to the Earth
Monday 11th March – This evening it’s a New Moon which rises and sets just before the Sun, making it a good time to observe deep sky objects without interference from the Moon’s glare
One such object that looks great through binoculars or a small telescope is M44, the Beehive Cluster (also known as Praesepe)
We imaged the Beehive Cluster when Mars was passing in front of it in October 2011, and it looked great! If you’re going to try image this object yourself, why not tweet your results to us on Twitter!
Wednesday 13th March – Discovered in June 2011, Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) reaches Perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on 10th March. However, as it is close to our star on this date our best chance of spotting it is from 12th March onwards as it moves away into twilight skies
On 13th March it will appear below the crescent Moon soon after sunset
Friday 15th March – Appearing slightly higher in the sky than on the 13th, the position of Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is shown below. Should it have developed a tail it will point towards the Moon, and if predictions prove true should be visible to the naked eye!
Sunday 17th March – Tonight’s Moon is seen in the First Quarter phase
Tuesday 19th March – Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 404,260 km (251196 miles), the farthest point in its orbit to the Earth
Wednesday 20th March – Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere
Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) should be visible in slightly darker skies after 19:30 UTC, and we are praying for good weather (and to find a flat Western horizon with less light pollution) so we can try and image it! Exciting!
By the end of the month (and into April) it will appear just below the Andromeda galaxy
Wednesday 27th March – The Full Moon this evening is also sometimes called the Fish Moon, Sleepy Moon or Chaste Moon
Sunday 31st March – British Summer Time (BST) begins, with the clocks going forward one hour at 01:00 UTC (becoming 02:00 BST). The Moon is also at Perigee for the second time this month today at a distance of 367,495 km (228,351 miles), and Mercury is at its greatest Western Elongation meaning it may be visible in the Eastern sky before sunrise
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy!
Guide images created with Stellarium