In the Sky This Month

As winter gives way to spring, the constellations rotate into always-changing configurations. By the end of March, Orion is on its way out, to disappear in April, with the Dog Star tagging close behind. Leo and Virgo begin their climb into prime time early in the month. Auriga, then Gemini, take turns crowning the sky as darkness falls.

The full Moon of March is known as the Sap Moon, Worm Moon, or Lenten Moon.

Perigee March 10
Apogee March 23

Moon phases are Central Time.

Moon Phases

March 3 9:23 am
Last Quarter Last Quarter
March 10 3:00 am
New Moon New Moon
March 16 11:11 pm
First Quarter First Quarter
March 25 2:00 am
Full Moon Full Moon

Coma Berenices

A sprinkling of faint stars stands in the east a few hours after sunset, to the upper right of Arcturus, the brightest star in that part of the sky. The stars are the main features of Coma Berenices, which represents the golden hair of Queen Berenice II of Egypt.

Close Clusters

The two closest and most prominent star clusters are high in the western sky at nightfall. The Hyades looks like a downward-pointing letter V with a bright orange star at one point. The dipper-shaped Pleiades is to the right of the Hyades.

Moon and Antares

The Moon and the star Antares, the heart of the scorpion, huddle especially close before dawn tomorrow. In fact, from some parts of the eastern United States, there won’t be any separation at all: The Moon will cover the star for a while, hiding it from view.

Bright Stars

Many bright stars highlight the sky this evening. The list includes Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which is also known as the Dog Star. Others include Regulus, the heart of the lion, and orange Betelgeuse and blue-white Rigel in Orion.

Leap Year

The remaining dates of 2024 will take a big leap, jumping over a day of the week. That’s because this is leap year, and today is leap day. The name “leap” comes from the fact that the extra day causes succeeding dates to leap over a day of the week.

Navi

Navi is the middle star in the “M” that outlines Cassiopeia. The crew of the first planned Apollo mission named three stars after themselves. Navi was the middle name of Gus Ivan Grissom spelled backwards. When the astronauts died in a fire, the names stuck.

Canopus

Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky, is so low in the sky that you need to be south of about Dallas to see it. Tonight, it will stand due south about 9 or 10 p.m., well below Sirius, the night sky’s brightest star.

Twinkling Sirius

Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is in the south at nightfall. If you keep your eye on it for a few seconds, you’ll see that Sirius twinkles fiercely. It gets brighter and fainter, and it changes color rapidly, from red to blue to pure white.

Rigel

Rigel, the brightest star of Orion, stands due south at nightfall, marking one of the hunter’s feet. Rigel shines blue-white, forming a dramatic contrast to orange Betelgeuse, Orion’s second-brightest light.

Variable Stars

Two variable stars are in view in winter’s evening sky. Algol, which consists of two stars that stage mutual eclipses, is in the west, in Perseus. Polaris, the North Star, pulses in and out like a beating heart. It stands where it always does, due north.

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