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In the Sky This Month

A pair of planets pushes up into the western sky shortly after sunset this month. Venus, the brilliant Evening Star, is beginning a long run in the evening sky. Mercury reaches its farthest point from the Sun in our sky this month, and will be dropping back toward the Sun by the end of the month. It is a difficult planet to watch, so its proximity to Venus will help it stand out.

March 23: Runaways

The Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery, hangs below the hunter’s belt at nightfall. A binary star known as Iota Orionis is near the nebula. An encounter with another binary may have kicked one star from each system out into space, with the remaining stars forming a new binary.

March 24: First-Quarter Moon

The Moon is at first quarter today, exactly one-quarter of the way through its month-long cycle of phases. It lines up at a right angle to Earth and the Sun, so sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.

March 25: First Leap

A gazelle leaps past the Big Dipper. In ancient skylore it made three leaps, each marked by a pair of stars. Those that mark the first jump are Alula Borealis and Alula Australis. As night falls, they are almost due east, far to the right of the dipper.

March 26: Dog Stars

The stars Procyon and Sirius arc to the lower right of the Moon as night falls and wheel down the western sky later on. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. Procyon, which is much closer to the Moon, is in the top 10 as well.

March 27: Hercules Rising

Hercules climbs into prominence during spring. Most of its stars clear the northeastern horizon by about 11 p.m. Look for a pattern of four moderately bright stars that looks like a shield. This pattern, the Keystone, represents Hercules’ body.

March 28: M82

M82, a galaxy that is a factory for exploding stars, loops high across the northern sky tonight. It stands to the upper left of the bowl of the Big Dipper as darkness falls. M82’s most recent supernova blasted into view four years ago.

March 29: Algieba

One of the most beautiful double stars is Algieba, in Leo, the lion, a constellation that is prominent during spring. Seen through a telescope, both of Algieba’s stars shine golden yellow.

Current moon phase

Full MoonFull Mar. 1, 6:51 pm

Last quarterLast Mar. 9, 5:20 am

New MoonNew Mar. 17, 8:12 am

First QuarterFirst Mar. 24, 10:35 am

Full MoonFull Mar. 31, 7:37 am

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee March 11

Perigee March 26

The full Moon of March is known as the Sap Moon, Worm Moon, or Lenten Moon. The second full Moon of the month is a Blue Moon.