What's Up in the Night Sky?

March 2023 - Vol. 27, No. 3

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

The constellations Taurus, with its Pleiades (a tiny "dipper-like" asterism), Orion and the Winter Triangle are now sinking in the W. Castor and Pollux (the Gemini "twins") are shining in the NW while Capella (Auriga) glows above them. Regulus (Leo) shines high in the S as the wandering constellation Hydra appears to create a void below since it has no bright stars. The "Big Dipper" asterism (Ursa Major) high in the NE has appeared to "rotate" so its "handle" is now nearly horizontal. Spica (Virgo) and Arcturus (Bootes) are now rising in the E. Spring is coming!

MERCURY disapppears from the morning sky the second week of the month, reaching superior conjunction on the 17th returns by month end, reemerging in the evening sky; catching up with Jupter for a conjunction on the 28th, a mere 11 deg. away from the Sun. VENUS very prominent in the evening sky favoring the northern hemisphere in close conjunction with Jupiter on March 2nd. MARS still residing in Taurus will be at 0.8 by month's end. JUPITER sets early in the evening sky, has a close conjunction with Venus on the second, when the two planets are separated by .5 deg. SATURN emerges into the morning twilight the second week of the month. URANUS is sets in the evening sky, close to Venus near the end of the month. NEPTUNE won't be seen as it is conjunction with the Sun on the 16th.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times or check with the U.S. Naval observatory. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

02 Venus .5 deg. N. Jupiter, a very nice conjunction in Pisces.
03 Alpha Geminorum, Pollux, 1.7 deg. N. of Moon.
Moon at apogee.
07 This month's full Moon is often called Crow, Crust, Sap, Sugar, or Worm Moon. Sap and sugar refer to the time when maple trees are tapped to make maple syrup in North America.
09 Zodiacal Light is visible. Look W from a dark location, at about an hour after sunset, to view zodiacal light. ("Zodiacal light" is a vertical band of white light believed to be sunlight reflected from meteoroids found in the plane of the ecliptic, the apparent "path" of the Sun, Moon and Planets as they travel across our sky.) It will appear to be a very large, but very dim, pyramid of of white light, "leaning" to the left. This effect may be visible for the next two weeks on dark nights.
12 Daylight Savings Time begins for affected areas.
14 Antares 1.6 deg. S. of Moon.
16 Mars at eastern quadrature.
Neptune in conjunction with the Sun.
17 Mercury at superior conjunction.
19 Saturn 4.0 deg. N. of Moon.
Moon at perigee.
20 Equinox, Spring begins in the northern hemisphere.
22 Jupiter 0.5 deg. N. of Moon occultation from parts of Easternmost Polynesia, Galapagos Islands, N half of South America, S. Central America, and S.E. Caribbean.
24 Venus 0.1 deg. N. of Moon occultation from S. and E. Africa, Madagascar, S. and E. Arabian Pennisula, Pakistan, S. half of Asia, and Phillipines.
25 Uranus 1.5 deg. S. of Moon.
26 Moon 1.9 deg. S of M-45, the Pleiades star cluster.
28 Mars 2 deg. S. of Moon.
30 Mars 1.2 deg. N. of M-35.
Alpha Geminorum, Pollux, 1.6 deg. N. of Moon.
31 Moon at apogee.
Venus 1.3 deg N. of Uranus, not visible in N. America.
Mercury at perihelion.

Lunar Almanac for March 2023

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: Leo

Finder chart for Leo sky

Leo is an ancient constellation, identified as a lion by the ancient Babylonians. It contains the prominent asterism known as "The Sickle" that is thought to resemble a lion's mane. The ancient astrologers noted that the sun remained in this constellation during the height of the summer. Perhaps this is why the lion has long been associated with the sun. Today Leo is thought to be a Spring constellation in the northern hemisphere and is called, a sure sign of Spring to some.

Leo is a treat for galaxy hunters. It contains two close pairs, bright enough to be "M" objects. M65 and M66 can be found between Theta and Iota Leonis, near this pair is the larger but fainter galaxy NGC 3628. M95 and M96 are about 9 degrees east of Regulus, a third galaxy M105 is nearby. Leo also contains two dwarf galaxies that are members of our Local Group of galaxies, but these are too dim to be seen with amateur equipment. Another galaxy for the small instrument is NGC 2903 that is located below Lambda Leonis.

Leo also swarms with interesting stars, including a nearby red dwarf which is the third closest star to Earth. This star is called, "Wolf 359 " and is shining at magnitude 13.5. Double stars include Gamma Leonis, a pair of yellow giants, and Iota Leonis, which may require larger apertures. R Leonis is a variable of the Mira type, its magnitude fluctuates from 5.4 (visible naked eye) to 10.5 every 313 days. R Leonis is a red giant and may appear quite red at maximum.

The constellation is so fascinating that we wrote a deeper article about Leo that you may find in the April 2019 issue of What's Up, the source of the finder image in this issue.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

This installment of "What's Up?" is ©2023 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.