By Deane Morrison—Minnesota Starwatch
Last month, Venus began a swan dive into the sunset and in March the brilliant planet completes it. Better look before mid-month if you want to see Venus in full glory, because in the third week of March it will be swallowed by the sun’s glare. On the 25th, Venus glides between Earth and the sun, in the process of becoming a morning planet.
Jupiter and Saturn are well up in the predawn sky. Jupiter, a yellowish beacon in the southwest, shines below Arcturus, the bright anchor of Bootes, the herdsman. In the south, Saturn hovers over the Teapot of Sagittarius, just east of the red star Antares, the heart of Scorpius.
In the evening, the knot of bright winter constellations makes its way westward. Sirius, the brightest of stars, is still fairly high in the south an hour after sunset. If you’ve never beheld the whole panoply of winter constellations, grab a star chart now, because March is the last good month to see them in the evening sky.
The full moon arrives at 9:54 a.m. on the 12th. Unfortunately, the moon will have set by then. To see it, look the evening of the 11th, or roughly before 7 a.m. on the 12th. Remember that if you look in the morning, the moon will be in the west. March’s full moon was known to many Algonquin Indians as the worm moon, for the little critters that start to appear with the softening ground.
The vernal equinox follows on the heels of the full moon, at 5:29 a.m. on the 20th. At that moment, the sun crosses the equator into the northern sky and our planet is lighted from pole to pole. This is also the time when the sun moves most rapidly northward, bringing increasing day length with it.
The University of Minnesota offers public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth campus. For more information and viewing schedules, see the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium at: d.umn.edu/planet.