Top 3 Astronomical Events To Look For This Month


Per Brian Lada, AccuWeather Meteorologist and Team Writer
February 27, 2019, 4:00:06 EST

March marks the official end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the changing seasons will be accompanied by a mysterious glow in the night sky visible only twice a year.

This month will also bring the final opportunities to see some winter constellations and the last super moon of 2019.

Here are three astronomical events to mark on your calendar throughout March:

1. Moon to glide over Mars, the star cluster of the Pleiades
When: March 10-12

Night watchers will be treated to a close encounter in the western sky as the crescent moon passes through Mars and the star cluster of the Pleiades.

Mars has been gradually shrinking in the night sky since the opposition arrived in July but will be easy to detect on the nights of March 10 and 11 as the crescent moon passes nearby.

No telescope is needed to see the close encounter, since the Moon and Mars are easily visible to the naked eye.

earth sky

(Image / Earthsky)

On the night of March 12, the moon will pass near the star cluster of the Pleiades, a cluster of stars near the famous constellation Orion. The less light pollution, the more stars can be seen in the star cluster.

"This is a great target for a simple pair of binoculars, as there are so many stars that can be seen here with only a small magnification," said Dave Samuhel, user of AccuWeather Astronomy.

This will be one of the last opportunities for those in the Northern Hemisphere to see the Pleiades high in the night sky, as the cluster of stars is not visible in the summer months.

2. Supermoon to follow the Vernal Equinox
When: March 20

Winter will come to an end on March 20, just hours before the last super moon of 2019.

The vernal equinox marks the official start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, with the season changing officially taking place at 5:58 pm. EDT on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

spring equinox 2019

Not long after spring begins, the third and last moon of the year will shine in the sky.

"The last time the full moon and the spring equinox coincided with this closeness (4 hours apart) was in March 2000," said the Old Farmer's Almanac on its website.


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The full moon of March is also known as Full Moon of Worm.

"At this time of year, the soil begins to soften enough so that earthworm molds reappear, inviting the return of robins and migratory birds – a true sign of spring," the Old Farmer Almanac reported.

Other names for the full moon in March include Sap Moon, Raven's Moon, the Sugar Moon and the Lenten Moon.

3. See the brightness of the zodiacal light
When: from mid to late March

A mysterious glow will appear in the night sky in the middle of late March as the nights around the equinox bring a unique opportunity to see the zodiacal light.

"What we're seeing is the sunlight reflecting the dust grains that surround the Sun in the inner solar system," said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on its Web site.

"It looks like a nebulous pyramid of light in the west after the real darkness falls," EarthSky reported.

after zodiacal light

The zodiacal light on the left, the Venus and the Milky Way on the right, appear near the top of the Three Stone Hill on the Bukk Plateau, near Felsotarkany, 137 km northeast of Budapest, Hungary, Friday, February 17 of 2017. (Peter Komka / MTI via AP)

Unlike many astronomical events that require cloudless sky conditions on a specific date, the zodiacal light must be visible in dark areas in the weeks before and immediately after the equinox. This allows viewers the luxury of waiting until time cooperates to see the astronomical phenomenon.

To better see the zodiacal light, go to a dark area where there is little light pollution. The city's bright lights can easily erase the dazzling brightness of the night sky.

Spectators in the Southern Hemisphere will have the opportunity to see the zodiacal light before dawn, not after sundown in the Northern Hemisphere.

The next opportunity to see the zodiacal light will be in mid-September, leading to the autumnal equinox.

Looking back on February

February was packed with astronomical news, ranging from the biggest super moon of the year to NASA, officially declaring the end of the Mars Opportunity Rover's 15-year mission.

The month began with a crash when a meteor crossed the sky over Florida before making a forced landing in western Cuba. Large explosions were heard throughout the region on the afternoon of February 1, when the celestial stone entered the Earth's atmosphere.

(Photo / AccuWeather astronomy fan Frank Little)

The super full moon over New York on February 18, 2019.

(Photo / NASA / JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity reveals its shadow, seen on July 26, 2004, and photographed by the vehicle's front-end vehicle risk prevention camera. At the time, Opportunity was moving further into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

(Photo / AccuWeather Astronomy Fan Deirdre Hora)

Venus and Saturn next to each other in the night sky.

(Image / Shutterstock)

A new study released in early February revealed that the Earth's magnetic field is moving faster than expected.

(Image / NOAA / NASA / Center for Research and Transition of Short-Term Forecast)

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper instrument, aboard NOAA's GOES-16 satellite, captured this view of the February 1 meteoroid on Cuba (a small blue spot in the center of the bottom). The largest blue bow in the upper left corner is lightning over the Gulf of Mexico.

(Image / © Zuluaga et al./Google Earth)

Trajectory of the meteor that fell on Cuba on February 1, 2019, rebuilt by a team of Colombian astronomers.

(Image / EarthCam)

The snowy moon rising over the New York skyline.

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Questions or Comments? Email Brian Lada at Brian.L[email protected] and do not forget to follow him on Twitter!

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