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Night sky in March – southern hemisphere


Highlights: Jupiter bright. Venus in morning sky.

Here is a view of the night sky this month as seen from mid-southern latitudes such as Sydney (-33° 52′) in mid March, 2014, at 10pm local time.

The planets in March 2014

Mercury is back in the morning sky and reaches a good elevation above the horizon before dawn for observers in southern latitudes. But it never strays far from the SUn, so you will need a clear horizon to see it shining at magnitude 0 at around the date of its greatest elongation west from the Sun on 14 March.

Venus will be shining high from southern latitudes, due to the angle of the ecliptic at this time of year. You can’t miss it shining at around -4.5 before dawn.

Mars is rapidly brightening now as it comes towards its closest approach to the Earth which it makes every two years or so. The planet brightens to -1.3 by the end of the month as it travels through the constellation of Virgo. Surface detail including its north polar cap will be visible in reasonable telescopes. Find out more about Mars here including new maps to show its position in the sky.

Jupiter is now two months past opposition but still ideally positioned for evening observation, shining at magnitude -2.4, though being at its northernmost point in the constellation of Gemini makes it less favourable for southern observers. If you have a small telescope, or binoculars held steady, you will be able to see the four main moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, that were discovered by Galileo. Not that they may not all be visible at the same time if some are hidden by the planet. A small telescope will show the belts in Jupiter’s atmosphere too.

Saturn is still mainly visible in the morning sky, rising at around midnight at the start of the month and nearly two hours earlier by the end. It shines brightly at magnitude +0.3 in the constellation of Libra. The rings are open wide as viewed from Earth, making them a fine sight in a small telescope.

Note: The sky will appear much the same from other cities at similar latitudes, such as Perth or Wellington, at around 10pm local time. Imagine holding it over your head so that the centre of the chart is the zenith and the edge runs all the way around your horizon. 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 customizable, browser-based planetarium, courtesy of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Tip: The chart is interactive. Click on the date or location to the top left of the chart to view the sky at a different time or from another location. If you want to check out the sky as seen from the northern hemisphere, click here.