What’s up in SW Florida’s March Skies

Moon Phases In March 2019

New Moon         First Quarter      Full Moon           Last Quarter

March 6th           March 14th        March 21st         March 28th

The Full Moon that occurs on the 21st of March is the last of three “supermoons” in 2019 — meaning only that the moon is at perigee in its slightly elliptical orbit (as close as it ever gets to Earth) while being full.

Please note that Daylight Savings Time starts 02:00 March 10th.

The Planets this month: Evening

Mercury: present in the early evening sky at the start of March, Mercury is swiftly plunging toward the Sun from our point of view and will disappear in the sunset’s glare days before it actually crosses the Sun (conjunction) on March 15th. By the end of the month, it will have crossed the Sun and so it will appear in the predawn sky — that’s how fast it is.

Mars: Beautifully situated in the early evening sky about 45 degrees above your western horizon after sunset, Mars is that steady orange-reddish dot about 15 degrees below the lovely little Pleiades cluster in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull). That means it will be setting a few hours later — so Mars for most of the month is the only planet gracing our early evening sky.

The Predawn Planets: Jupiter, Saturn and then Venus (and finally Mercury)

Jupiter rises a couple of hours after midnight and Saturn and Venus rise 2.5 and 2 hours before dawn, respectively (note that Venus is moving from night to night slightly closer to the Sun in our sky, so that “2 hours” figure is at the start of March). The image I have included is of the panorama from looking East to SE to South along your horizon before dawn on the 29th (assuming you can find a nice flat Eastern horizon, this is what you’ll see). You can also see that the Moon as it wanes will pass right through the lineup of planets from one day to the next, moving more than 11 degrees per night Eastward along our sky. At the time of the image, the 29th, the last-quarter Moon is passing Saturn, heading toward the Sun. By the time the Moon passes Mercury a few days after this image (early April, that will be), it will be a lovely thin crescent! This month, as last month, predawn skywatching is the way to go!

Remember to visit the planetarium on Saturday, March 23rd for the Meet the Meteorites unveiling and talk (you may even get a very small piece of a meteorite to take home, if you are lucky). Our website has more information, just click on the Meet the Meteorites slider item.

See you at the Center!

— Heather Preston, Planetarium Director