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    Overview

    What to Look For

    March 17 - 21

    Winter and early spring are a great time to marvel at Sirius — the brightest star in our sky. Sirius is nicknamed "the Dog Star," because it's the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. The main reason it's so bright in our sky is that it's one of the closest stars to our Sun, at just 8.6 light years away.

    Winter and early spring are a great time to marvel at Sirius — the brightest star in our sky. Sirius is nicknamed "the Dog Star," because it's the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. The main reason it's so bright in our sky is that it's one of the closest stars to our Sun, at just 8.6 light years away.

    Finally this month, on March 28th, enjoy a beautiful grouping of Venus, the crescent Moon and the Pleiades in the western sky after sunset. The Pleiades are one of the best-known star clusters in the sky because they're so bright and easy to see — even in most urban areas. Although only a handful of the brightest stars in the cluster are visible to the unaided eye, there are actually hundreds there, and they are dazzling when seen through binoculars or a small telescope.

    Moon Phases

    This Month's Moon Phases

    Here are the phases of the Moon for March.

    moon phase chart
    The phases of the Moon for March 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Sky Charts

    Sky Charts

    The sky charts presented here show a field of view of 90 degrees — that is, an area on the sky that goes from the horizon up to the top of the sky (also called the zenith).

    More about Sirius

    Sirius (aka the Dog Star, aka Alpha Canis Majoris) is a blue-white star, about twice as massive as our Sun, and a bit less than twice as wide. Although it appears as the brightest star in the night sky, it's not the brightest star in an absolute sense. It happens to be the brightest star we see in the night sky because it's both reasonably bright and very close by. In fact, it's one of the closest stars to our solar system. But many other stars, for example Rigel and Deneb, would vastly outshine Sirius if placed at its super-close distance of just 8.6 light years.

    The primary star in the binary Sirius star system is called Sirius A. Its tiny, white dwarf companion, Sirius B (aka "The Pup") is slightly smaller than Earth. Sirius B is challenging to study because it's so close to the brilliant glare of Sirius A, which is 10,000 times brighter. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope managed to image the pair in 2003.

    Hubble's image of Sirius:

    https://hubblesite.org/contents/media/images/2005/36/1820-Image.html

    Daily Guide

    March 18-20

    On Wednesday morning, the planets Jupiter and Mars will appear a couple of degrees above the waning crescent Moon (Jupiter to the upper left and Mars to the upper right). Saturn will appear further to the left. Seeing these celestial objects clustered together should be a good show. Try looking to the southeast about 16 degrees above the horizon before morning twilight begins (at 6:16 AM EDT for the Washington, DC area).

    By Thursday morning, March 19, the waning crescent Moon will appear to have shifted to the lower left of Saturn. At 11:50 PM EDT, it will be the vernal equinox, the astronomical end of winter and start of spring. March 19th is earlier on the calendar than the equinox usually occurs, but this is because we are in a leap year and just added a day to February to bring the calendar back into sync with the solar year. Because UTC is 4 hours ahead of EDT, some commercial calendars will show this equinox on March 20.

    On Friday morning, March 20, 2020, the planets Jupiter and Mars will appear at their closest to each other.

    March 21

    Saturday morning it may be difficult to see, but if you have a clear view of the southeastern horizon, you may be able to spot the thin, waning crescent Moon about 6 degrees to the right of the planet Mercury. The Moon will rise about 2 minutes after morning twilight begins, so you will need a clear view of the horizon to catch this pair before they are masked by the glow of dawn.

    March 22

    Sometime on the afternoon of Sunday, (2020-Mar-22 18:49 UTC with 2 hours, 47 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2020 DP4), between 25 and 57 meters (83 to 186 feet) in size, will pass the Earth at between 3.5 and 3.6 lunar distances (nominally 3.5), traveling at 8.10 kilometers per second (18,130 miles per hour).

    March 23

    Monday evening the bright planet Venus will appear at its highest in the sky at the time evening twilight ends (at 8:21 PM EDT for the Washington, DC area). The next day, Venus will reach its greatest angular separation from the Sun for this apparition, 46.1 degrees west, appearing half full when viewed through a telescope or good binoculars.

    March 24

    Tuesday morning, at 5:28 AM EDT, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from the Earth.

    The day of or the day after the New Moon marks the start of the new month for most lunisolar calendars. The third month of the Chinese calendar starts on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 (at midnight in China's time zone, which is 12 hours ahead of EDT). Sundown on Wednesday, March 25 marks the start of Nisan in the Hebrew year 5780. In the Hindu lunisolar calendar, March 25 marks the start of the month of Chaitra and for some Indian states is celebrated as Ugadi or New Year's Day (see for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugadi for more information).

    In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon after the New Moon. Wednesday evening, March 25, 2020, will probably mark the beginning of Sha'ban, the eighth month of the calendar and the month before Ramadan.

    Tuesday mid-day, at 11:23 AM EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.

    March 28

    On the evening of Saturday, the bright planet Venus will appear in the western sky about 8 degrees to the right of the waxing crescent Moon.

    March 29

    On the evening of Sunday, the bright star Aldebaran will appear about 4 degrees to the lower left of the waxing crescent Moon.

    March 31

    On Tuesday morning, the planets Saturn and Mars will appear at their closest to each other, with Jupiter to the right.

    April 1

    On Wednesday morning, the Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 6:21 AM EDT. On Wednesday evening, the bright star Pollux will appear about 7 degrees to the upper right of the half-full waxing Moon.

    April 3

    On Friday evening, the planet Venus will appear very near the Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters).

    April 4

    On Saturday evening, the bright star Regulus will appear about 5 degrees to the right of the waxing gibbous Moon.

    April 7

    Tuesday afternoon at 2:08 PM EDT, the Moon will be at perigee, its closest to the Earth for this orbit.

    The full Moon after next will be on Tuesday night, April 7, 2020, at 10:35 PM EDT.

    Additional Resources

    Additional Resources

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