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Night sky this month – March


Highlights: Jupiter bright all night. Eclipse of the Sun.

Here is a view of the night sky this month as seen from mid-northern latitudes such as London (51° 30′) in mid March, 2015, at 10pm (22h UT).

The planets in March 2015

Mercury is too close to the Sun to be observed this month.

Venus shines brilliantly at mag -4 in the evening sky and can be spotted as it gets dark. Through a telescope it looks like a small gibbous moon. Mars still lies nearby, and on 4 March, Uranus will be only 6 arc minutes, or a fifth the diameter of the Moon, away, though being 10,000 times fainter, it will be hard to spot so low and in the brighter planet’s glare.

Mars is still hanging on in the evening sky, at magnitude +1.3, due to the way it races eastwards, as if trying to stop the Sun catching up with it. It lies not far from Venus and will be just 18 arc minutes from Uranus on 11 March. Find out more about Mars here including maps to show its position in the sky.

Jupiter is splendidly placed for northern hemisphere observers, being high in the constellation of Cancer, and shining from dusk for most of the night at magnitude -2.4. A small telescope will show the bands in its cloud tops and the four brightest moons.

Saturn is visible in the hours between midnight and dawn, though low in the constellation of Scorpius. With a magnitude of +0.3, it is bright and easy to find. Even a small telescope will show its beautiful rings.

Eclipse of the Sun

A total eclipse of the Sun occurs on 20 March, but the total phase will only be visible on land from the Faroe Islands and Svalbard in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans respectively. Otherwise you will need to be in the air or at sea as the Moon’s shadow sweeps from a point south of Greenland to the North Pole.
Much of Europe and Asia will get a partial eclipse. This will still be a significant event for the UK and some heavily populated parts of western Europe. Here is a useful video guide from the Society for Popular Astronomy.

Note: The sky will appear much the same from other cities at similar latitudes, such as New York, Paris and Berlin, at around 10pm local time. The sky appears the same at the start of the month an hour later and at the end of the month an hour earlier. We use Virtual Sky, a new, customizable, browser-based planetarium, courtesy of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Click on the date or location to the top left of the chart to view the sky at a different time or from another longitude and latitude. If you want to check out the sky as seen from the southern hemisphere, click here.