Visible Planets And The Apogee Moon Light Up Night Sky

In March, three of the five planets visible to the unaided eye can be seen clearly. Between them, Jupiter and Venus, the brightest objects in the the night sky after the moon, have the eastern and western horizons covered at nightfall.

All week, Jupiter has been shadowing the moon in the eastern sky from nightfall to dawn. Jupiter can be seen as the brightest object in the eastern sky at dusk, and will be be moving westward all night, to set in the west an hour or two before dawn.

Jupiter’s moons are performing a complicated dance. Its four major moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, can be seen using binoculars or a telescope. Details of their mutual eclipses and occlusions can be found here.

Venus is the third brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, and can be seen in the Western sky at dusk. It shines like a lighthouse or beacon in the sky at nightfall and sets two or three hours after dark.

Mars is still visible as a dim red spot low in the western sky. It can be seen just below Venus, setting soon after the sun. Through March, Venus will climb higher in the sky and Mars will appear lower and lower, until it vanishes in the sunset.

Mercury is visible through March in the Southern Hemisphere just before dawn, in the eastern sky. In the northern latitudes, it will appear in April.

Saturn rises around midnight in the southeastern sky. Its rings can only be seen through a telescope.

Uranus and Neptune are not visible to the unaided eye.

The full moon tonight is the first one of spring. It is the smallest of the year’s full moons, because March 5 is also the day of apogee – the farthest point in the moon’s orbit from the earth. It will rise in the east at nightfall, and set in the west at dawn.

We’ll let the Bard have the last word on this:

O swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.