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In the Sky This Month

Leo takes its rightful place as the lord of the skies on March nights. The lion is in good view in the east as darkness falls, and springs high across the sky during the night. The bright planet Jupiter trails far behind it, near Spica, the brightest star of Virgo. And the even brighter planet Venus changes addresses during the month. It is the brilliant Evening Star as the month begins, but switches to the morning sky by month's end.

March 23: The Argo

Argo, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts, sails across the south tonight. It originally was a single constellation, but astronomers broke it into four smaller ones: Carina, the keel; Vela, the sail; Puppis, the poop deck; and Pyxis, the compass.

March 24: Moving Day

Venus is losing its identity. After tonight, it will no longer be the “evening star.” Instead, it will be the “morning star,” as it crosses the line between Earth and the Sun. This crossing is known as inferior conjunction, and it happens every 584 days.

March 25: Cor Caroli

Cor Caroli, the brightest star of Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs, is in the east-northeast at nightfall. It is the first meagerly bright star to the right of the tip of the Big Dipper’s handle.

March 26: M82

M82, one of the most vigorous galaxies around, is in Ursa Major, the big bear. It stands to the upper left of the Big Dipper as night falls, and is visible through a small telescope. It is giving birth to far more stars than our galaxy, the Milky Way.

March 27: Growth Spurt

M87, a giant elliptical galaxy that looks like a fuzzy rugby ball, with no spiral arms or other major features, perches high in the east at nightfall. The galaxy is visible through small telescopes.

March 28: Head of Hercules

The star that represents the head of Hercules rises below his body. It is called Rasalgethi, and it actually consists of three individual stars. Look for it clearing the northeastern horizon in late evening.

March 29: Moon, Mars, and Mercury

The Moon is a beautiful crescent this evening. To the lower right of the Moon, look for the planet Mercury, which looks like a bright star. And look farther above the Moon for Mars, which looks like a modest orange star.

Current moon phase

First QuarterFirst Mar. 5, 5:32 am

Full MoonFull Mar. 12, 9:54 am

Last quarterLast Mar. 20, 10:58 am

New MoonNew Mar. 27, 9:57 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee March 3, 30

Apogee March 18

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