After a few months of spectacular planet viewing, things start to calm down. The month starts with Venus and Jupiter forming a dazzling pair in the west at nightfall, but they quickly separate, with Jupiter dropping lower into the sunset. Mars drops to just a fraction of the brilliance it displayed in December, with Saturn and Mercury out of sight. In the stars, Leo begins its climb to spring prominence, with Virgo following the lion a few hours later.
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In the Sky This Month
March 30: Crater
The constellation Crater, the cup, is in the southeastern sky in early evening. Its stars are faint, so you need dark skies to find it. To ancient European cultures, Crater represented the birthplace of storms.
April 1: Moon and Regulus
Look for Regulus near the Moon the next couple of nights. The bright heart of Leo, the lion, stands below the Moon tonight, and to the upper right of the Moon tomorrow night.
April 2: Evening Mercury
The planet Mercury will be in good view in the early evening for a while, low in the west as twilight fades. It looks like a bright star, far below much brighter Venus, the brilliant Evening Star.
April 3: Gienah
Corvus, the crow, is low in the southeast at nightfall and glides across the south during the night. Its four main stars form a pattern that looks like a sail. The brightest of the four is Gienah, which is about 350 times brighter than the Sun.
April 4: Night Watch
As night falls this evening, look in the southwest for Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. The light you see from the star tonight actually began its journey 8.6 years ago. That means the star is 8.6 light-years away.
April 5: Moon and Spica
Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, climbs up below the Moon by about 9 or 9:30 p.m. tonight. It will be closer to the upper right of the Moon tomorrow night. Spica actually consists of two stars, only one of which is visible.
April 6: Double Dippers
The Big Dipper is high in the northeast at nightfall. It appears to “pour” its contents toward the northern horizon and into the Little Dipper. This fainter dipper is anchored by Polaris, the North Star, which is at the end of the dipper’s handle.
Full March 7, 6:40 am
Last March 14, 9:08 pm
New March 21, 12:23 pm
First March 28, 9:32 pm
Times are U.S. Central Time.
Apogee March 3, 31
Perigee March 19
The full Moon of March is known as the Sap Moon, Worm Moon, or Lenten Moon.