Dave Mitsky's Celestial Calendar for March 2019
All times, unless otherwise noted, are UT (subtract five hours and, when appropriate, one calendar day for EST and four hours for EDT as of March 10th)
3/1 The Moon is 0.4 degree northeast of Saturn, with an occultation occurring in southern North America, Central America, most of northern Polynesia, and most of Micronesia, at 19:00
3/2 The Moon, Saturn, and Pluto lie within a circle with a diameter of 4.7 degrees at 3:00; the Moon is at the descending node (longitude 296.0 degrees) at 11:00; the Moon is 0.6 degree north of Pluto, with an occultation occurring in most of Mongolia, most of China, most of southern and eastern Asia, India, the Middle East, southwestern Europe, and northeastern Africa, at 20:00; the Moon is 1.2 degrees south of Venus at 21:00
3/4 The Moon is at apogee, subtending 29' 24" from a distance of 406,390 kilometers (252,519 miles), at 10:26
3/5 Asteroid 2 Pallas is stationary at 2:00; Mercury is stationary in right ascension, with retrograde motion to commence, at 5:00; Mercury is stationary in longitude, with retrograde motion to commence, at 18:00
3/6 New Moon (lunation 1190) occurs at 16:04; the Moon is 3.0 degrees south-southeast of Neptune at 17:00
3/7 Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun (latitude -0.99 degree) at 1:00; Mercury is at its northernmost latitude from the ecliptic plane (7.0 degrees) at 3:00; the Moon is 7.9 degrees south southeast of Mercury at 19:00; asteroid 4 Vesta is in conjunction with the Sun at 22:00
3/10 Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins today; the Moon is 4.6 degrees south-southeast of Uranus at 8:00
3/11 The Moon is 5.5 degrees south-southeast of Mars at 17:00
3/12 The Sun enters Pisces (longitude 351.6 degrees on the ecliptic) at 11:00; the Moon is 8.2 degrees south-southeast of the bright open cluster M45 (the Pleiades or Subaru) in Taurus at 17:00
3/13 The Moon is 1.9 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) at 10:00; the Lunar X (the Purbach or Werner Cross), an X-shaped illumination effect involving various rims and ridges between the craters La Caille, Blanchinus, and Purbach, is predicted to be fully formed at 15:26
3/14 Jupiter is at western quadrature (90 degrees from the Sun) at 1:00; Venus is at the descending node through the ecliptic plane at 9:00; First Quarter Moon occurs at 10:26
3/15 Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun (0.618 astronomical units from the Earth, latitude 5.7 degrees) at 2:00
3/16 The Moon is 6.8 degrees south of the first-magnitude star Pollux (Beta Geminorum) at 15:00; the Moon is at the ascending node (longitude 114.9 degrees) at 16:00
3/17 The Moon is 0.5 degree south of the bright open cluster M44 (the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe) in Cancer at 13:00
3/18 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Europa follows Ganymede) begins at 5:33
3/19 The Moon is 2.5 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis) at 2:00; the Moon is at perigee, subtending 33' 15" from a distance of 359,377 kilometers (223,307 miles), at 19:48
3/20 The northern hemisphere vernal equinox occurs at 21:58
3/21 Full Moon (known as the Crow, Lenten, and Sap Moon) occurs at 1:43
3/22 The Moon is 7.1 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis) at 17:00; spring equinox on Mars occurs at 22:00
3/25 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit (Europa follows Ganymede) begins at 8:06
3/26 The Moon is 8.1 degrees north-northeast of the first-magnitude star Antares (Alpha Scorpii) 2:00
3/27 The Moon is 1.9 degrees north-northeast of Jupiter at 4:00; Mercury is stationary in right ascension, with prograde (direct) motion to commence, at 12:00
3/28 Last Quarter Moon occurs at 4:10; Mercury is stationary in longitude and resumes prograde (direct) motion at 14:00
3/29 The Moon is 0.05 degree south of Saturn, with an occultation occurring in Sri Lanka, far southern India, Madagascar, southern Africa, and far eastern Brazil, at 5:00; the Moon is 0.3 degree north of Pluto, with an occultation occurring far western Africa, the Cape Verde Islands, Madeira, the northern half of South America, Central America, and southern and western Mexico, at 12:00; the Moon is at the descending node (longitude 293.7 degrees) at 13:00; the Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped clair-obscure illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to be visible at 19:30
3/30 Mercury is at the descending node through the ecliptic plane at 23:00
3/31 Mars (magnitude +1.4) is 3.1 degrees south-southeast of M45 (the Pleiades)
Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762), Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), Josef von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), John Herschel (1792-1871), Percival Lowell (1855-1916), Albert Einstein (1879-1955), and Walter Baade (1893-1960) were born this month.
Titan, Saturn’s largest satellite, was discovered on March 25, 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. The English astronomer Edward Pigott discovered the spiral galaxy M63 (the Black Eye Galaxy) on March 23, 1779. The English astronomer Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781. The grand design spiral galaxy M101 was discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain on March 27, 1781. Asteroid 2 Pallas was discovered by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers on March 28, 1802. Asteroid 4 Vesta was discovered by Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers on March 29, 1807. The first photograph of the Moon was taken on March 23, 1840. The Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek discovered Comet C/1973 E1 (Kohoutek) on March 7, 1973. The rings of Uranus were discovered on March 10, 1977. The Spanish amateur astronomer Francisco Garcia Diaz discovered supernova SN 1993 in the spiral galaxy M81 (Bode's Galaxy) on March 28th, 1993.
The zodiacal light may be visible in the western sky after sunset from dark locations after March 21st.
Information on Iridium flares and passes of the ISS, the Tiangong-2, the USAF’s X-37B, the HST, and other satellites can be found at http://www.heavens-above.com/
The Moon is 23.9 days old, is illuminated 28.0%, subtends 29.4 arc minutes, and is located in the constellation of Sagittarius at 0:00 UT on March 1st. New Moon occurs on March 6th. Full Moon occurs on March 21st. The Moon is at apogee (at a distance of 63.72 Earth-radii) on March 4th and at perigee (at a distance of distance 56.34 Earth-radii) on March 26th. Favorable librations occur for the following craters: Bailly (March 19th), Demonax (March 20th), Neumayer (March 21st), and Gill (March 22nd). The Moon will occult Saturn on March 1st and March 29th and Pluto on March 2nd and March 29th from certain parts of the world. Consult http://www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm for information on lunar occultation events. Visit http://saberdoesthestars.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/saber-does-the-stars/ for tips on spotting extreme crescent Moons. Click on http://www.calendar-12.com/moon_calendar/2019/march for a March lunar calendar. Times and dates for the lunar light rays predicted to occur this month are available at http://www.lunar-occultations.com/rlo/rays/rays.htm
The Sun is in Aquarius on March 1st at 0:00 UT. It enters Pisces on March 12th. The Sun crosses the celestial equator at 21:58 UT on March 20th, bringing spring to the northern hemisphere. At the equinox, the Sun is located in Aries and has a longitude of zero degrees.
Brightness, apparent size, illumination, distance from the Earth in astronomical units, and location data for the planets and Pluto on March 1st: Mercury (magnitude -0.2, 7.7", 39%, 0.88 a.u., Pisces), Venus (magnitude -4.1, 15.6", 72%, 1.07 a.u., Sagittarius), Mars (magnitude +1.2, 5.3", 91%, 1.77 a.u., Aires), Jupiter (magnitude -2.0, 36.2", 99%, 5.45 a.u., Ophiuchus), Saturn (magnitude +0.6, 15.6", 100% illuminated, 10.63 a.u., Sagittarius), Uranus (magnitude +5.9, 3.4", 100% illuminated, 20.66 a.u. on March 16th, Aries), Neptune (magnitude +8.0, 2.2", 100% illuminated, 30.92 a.u. on March 16th, Aquarius), and Pluto (magnitude +14.3, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 34.20 a.u. on March 16th, Sagittarius).
In the evening, Mercury, Mars, and Uranus can be seen in the west. Mercury is in the east, Venus and Saturn are in the southeast, and Jupiter is in the south in the morning sky. Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter are spaced evenly respectively on the morning of March 13th.
During March, Mercury dims in brightness from magnitude -0.2 to magnitude +3.6 and brightens again to magnitude +0.9 by month’s end. It grows in apparent size from 7.7 to a maximum of 10.9 arc seconds and ends the month at 9.5 arc seconds. The innermost planet sets about 1.5 hours after the Sun on March 1st but by March 7th it will be so close to the horizon that it will be very difficult to see. Mercury is stationary on March 5th, reaches greatest heliocentric latitude north on March 7th, is in inferior conjunction with the Sun on March 15th, is stationary again on March 27th, and is at the descending node on March 30th. Mercury reappears low in the east shortly before sunrise in late March.
Venus drops in magnitude from -4.1 to -3.9 and decreases in angular size to 13.2 arc seconds during March. It rises around 4:30 a.m. local time. The waning crescent Moon passes 1.2 degrees north of the planet on March 2nd. By the end of March, Venus sets more than 1.5 hours after the Sun.
Mars dims to magnitude +1.4 and shrinks to a mere 4.7 arc seconds. The waxing crescent Moon passes six degrees south of Mars on March 11th. The Red Planet departs Aries and enters Taurus in late March. Mars passes three degrees south of M45 (the Pleiades) on March 31st.
Jupiter increases in brightness from magnitude -2.0 to magnitude -2.2 and grows in apparent size by 3.5 arc seconds to 39.7 arc seconds this month. It rises about 2:00 a.m. EST on March 1st. The waning gibbous Moon passes two degrees north of the planet on March 27th. Double Galilean shadow transits take place on March 18th and March 25th. Data on these and other Galilean satellite events is available online at http://www.shallowsky.com/jupiter/ and http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/ and on page 51 of the March 2019 issue of Sky & Telescope. Click on http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/ or consult pages 50 and 51 of the March 2019 issue of Sky & Telescope to determine transit times of the central meridian by the Great Red Spot. Additional information on Jupiter can be found at https://curtrenz.com/jupiter.html
Saturn rises around 4:00 a.m. local time as the month begins. During March, Saturn’s equatorial diameter measures 16 arc seconds. Its rings span 36 arc seconds and are inclined 24 degrees. Saturn is occulted by the Moon on March 1st and March 29th from certain parts of the world. Click on https://curtrenz.com/saturn.html for a wealth of information on Saturn. For information on the major satellites of Saturn, browse http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/
Uranus is positioned about 30 degrees above the western horizon as darkness falls. On March 1st, Uranus is located 2.1 degrees north-northeast of the fourth-magnitude star Omicron Piscium in southeastern Pisces. The similarly bright star SAO 92659 (magnitude +5.9) is situated 12 arc minutes to the north-northwest of the planet on that date. Uranus lies 27 arc minutes due east of SAO 92659 on March 13th. The Moon passes five degrees south of the seventh planet on the night of March 9th/March 10th. See http://www.curtrenz.com/uranep.html for additional information on Uranus. A finder chart for Uranus can be found at http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/uranus.htm
Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on March 7th and will not be visible again until late April.
Pluto is not a viable target this month.
For more on the planets and how to locate them, browse http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/
The periodic comet 46P/Wirtanen glows faintly at it heads southeastward through Ursa Major into Leo Minor. Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) fades as it travels southwestward through Auriga into Perseus during March. Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ and http://www.aerith.net/comet/future-n.html for additional information on comets visible this month.
Asteroid 3 Juno travels northeastward from eastern Taurus into western Orion this month. The main belt asteroid passes due south of the sixth-magnitude open cluster NGC 1662 on March 12th. On March 16th, it passes just 0.1 degree north of the fifth-magnitude star Pi Orionis. Asteroids brighter than magnitude +11.0 that are at opposition this month include 64 Angelina (magnitude +10.4) in Leo on March 2nd, 385 Ilmatar (magnitude +10.6) in Leo on March 17th, and 17 Thetis (magnitude +10.7) in Virgo on March 22nd. Consult http://britastro.org/computing/charts_asteroid.html for finder charts and http://www.curtrenz.com/asteroids.html to learn more about a select number of asteroids.
A wealth of current information on solar system celestial bodies is posted at http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomy.html and http://nineplanets.org/
Various events taking place within our solar system are discussed at http://www.bluewaterastronomy.info/styled-4/index.html
Information on the celestial events transpiring each week can be found at http://astronomy.com/skythisweek and http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/sky-at-a-glance/
Free star maps for March can be downloaded at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html and http://www.telescope.com/content.jsp?pageName=Monthly-Star-Chart
The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.4, on March 2nd, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 22nd, 24th, 27th, and 30th. Consult http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/ for the times of the eclipses. Favorable dates for observing Algol at mid-eclipse from the eastern United States include March 1st (7:19 p.m. EDT or 0:19 UT March 2nd), March 19th (1:15 a.m. EDT or 5:15 UT), and March 21st (10:04 p.m. EDT or 2:04 UT March 22nd). For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstation.com/stars2/algol3.htm
Data on current supernovae can be found at http://www.rochesterastronomy.org/snimages/
It is possible to observe all 109 (or 110) Messier objects during a single night around the time of the vernal equinox, if the Moon phase and local latitude are favorable. For information on running a so-called Messier Marathon, browse http://messier.seds.org/xtra/marathon/marathon.html and http://www.richardbell.net/marathon.html
Information on observing some of the more prominent Messier galaxies is available at http://www.cloudynights.com/topic/358295-how-to-locate-some-of-the-major-messier-galaxies-and-helpful-advice-for-novice-amateur-astronomers/
Finder charts for the Messier objects and other deep-sky objects are posted at https://freestarcharts.com/messier and https://freestarcharts.com/ngc-ic and http://www.cambridge.org/features/turnleft/seasonal_skies_january-march.htm
Telrad finder charts for the Messier Catalog and the SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC are posted at http://www.astro-tom.com/messier/messier_finder_charts/map1.pdf and http://www.saguaroastro.org/content/db/Book110BestNGC.pdf respectively.
Deep-sky object list generators can be found at https://dso-browser.com/ and http://www.virtualcolony.com/sac/ and http://tonightssky.com/MainPage.php
Free sky atlases can be downloaded at http://www.deepskywatch.com/files/deepsky-atlas/Deep-Sky-Hunter-atlas-full.pdf and https://www.cloudynights.com/articles/cat/articles/observing-skills/free-mag-7-star-charts-r1021 and https://allans-stuff.com/triatlas/
Thirty binary and multiple stars for March: Struve 1173, Struve 1181, Struve 1187, Zeta Cancri, 24 Cancri, Phi-2 Cancri, Iota-1 Cancri, Struve 1245, Iota-2 Cancri, 66 Cancri, Struve 1327 (Cancer); Struve 1270, Epsilon Hydrae, 15 Hydrae, 17 Hydrae, Theta Hydrae, 27 Hydrae, Struve 1347, Struve 1357, Struve 1365 (Hydra); 3 Leonis, Struve 1360, 6 Leonis, Omicron Leonis (Leo); Struve 1274, Struve 1282, Struve 1333, 38 Lyncis, Struve 1369 (Lynx); h4046 (Puppis)
Notable carbon star for March: T Cancri (Cancer)
Thirty-five deep-sky objects for March: M44, M67, NGC 2775 (Cancer); Abell 33, M48, NGC 2610, NGC 2642, NGC 2811, NGC 2835, NGC 2855, NGC 2935, NGC 2992, NGC 3052, NGC 3078 (Hydra); NGC 2903, NGC 2916, NGC 2964, NGC 2968, NGC 3020 (Leo); NGC 2859, NGC 3003, NGC 3021 (Leo Minor); NGC 2683 (Lynx); NGC 2567, NGC 2571 (Puppis); M81, M82, NGC 2639, NGC 2654, NGC 2681, NGC 2685, NGC 2742, NGC 2768, NGC 2787, NGC 2841, NGC 2880, NGC 2950, NGC 2976, NGC 2985 (Ursa Major)
Top ten binocular deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2571, NGC 2683, NGC 2841, NGC 2903, NGC 2976
Top ten deep-sky objects for March: M44, M48, M67, M81, M82, NGC 2654, NGC 2683, NGC 2835, NGC 2841, NGC 2903
Challenge deep-sky object for March: Abell 30 (Cancer)
The objects listed above are located between 8:00 and 10:00 hours of right ascension.