Night sky in March 2017 – southern hemisphere

Highlights: Bright Venus sinks in the evening sky. Jupiter dominates later in the night.

skymap thumbnailWelcome to Skymania’s guide to the night sky in March, 2017. You will find a map of the whole visible sky, which can be adjusted for any time and date, plus information on the position of the planets, phases of the Moon, and notable astronomical events to watch out for. (To open the sky map in a separate window, click here.)

For the night sky in the northern hemisphere, click here.

The sky in March 2017

Summary: Venus shines brilliantly in the evening sky at the start of March but sinks rapidly towards the Sun. Jupiter now rises in the late evening, with Saturn rising later in the night.

The planets

mercurythmMercury is invisible in the first half of March when it is too close to the Sun in the sky. Following superior conjunction on March 7, it moves into the evening sky where it may be spotted to the lower right of Venus if you have a clear, unobstructed horizon.

venusthmVenus is still shining brilliantly at the start of March and is impossible to miss, at magnitude -4.8, but will sink back towards the Sun as the month goes on, and reaches inferior conjunction, when it is on the same side of the Sun as the Earth, on March 25.

marsthmMars is still hanging on in the evening sky, shining like a bright star. The planet is receding on the far side of the Sun now and its brightness fades from magnitude 1.3 to 1.5 during the month.

jupiterthmJupiter, the biggest planet in the Solar System, is very well placed, rising in the late evening. Find it in the constellation of Virgo, not far from its brightest star, Spica. The planet brightens slightly from -2.3 to -2.5, making it the brightest object in the sky after Venus. A small telescope will reveal the planet’s belts and bands as well as the four main moons, known as the Galilean satellites, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

saturnthmSaturn lies in the morning sky this month, rising before 3am at the start of February but two hours earlier by month’s end. To the naked eye, it resembles a bright yellow star at magnitude 0.5. A small telescope will show its rings are wide open, making it an attractive sight.

uranus_thmUranus is visible in the early evening sky, but disappearing into twilight. It shines at magnitude 6.0 in the constellation of Pisces.

neptune_thmNeptune the last of the eight worlds recognised as planets in our Solar System, is too close to the Sun to be easily seen this month.

The Moon

The Moon always makes a great target for a small telescope, which come into view as its phases change. We’ve a guide to where to find 50 of the best lunar features, plus a checklist to download so you can tick them off as you spot them! Don’t have a telescope? Here’s our guide to choosing one.

Phases of the Moon

Phase First Quarter: Mar 5
Full Moon: Mar 12
Last Quarter: Mar 20
New Moon: Mar 28
Image courtesy U.S.N.O.
Fifty fantastic features – our amazing Moon

moon_in_relief_thmHere’s our guide to observing some of the finest sights on the Moon with small telescopes. Click here for pages of charts that will help you find interesting features to seek out yourself, including craters, lava flows, mountain ranges and deep chasms!

If you want to check out the sky as seen from the northern hemisphere, click here.