March 1, 2019 – What’s up for March? Jupiter in the morning, the start of spring, and a visit to the Beehive.
Jupiter greets early risers all month long. Look low in the southeast an hour before sunrise. (And if you have an unobstructed view toward the horizon, you’ll be able to spot Saturn and Venus as well, a bit lower in the sky.)
March marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager 1 spacecraft’s flyby of Jupiter, in 1979. Voyager gave us our first detailed, close-up look at the giant planet and its moons.
March also brings the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, starting on the 20th, with the Spring Equinox. Equinoxes occur twice a year, in spring and fall, on the dates when day and night are of equal length. From here until the beginning of fall, in September, daytime will be longer than nighttime, as the Sun travels a longer, higher arc across the sky each day, reaching a peak at the start of summer. It’s just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, where March 20th marks the fall Equinox.
The arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere brings fresh flowers and the buzzing of bees, which makes March a great time to try to spot the Beehive Cluster. This grouping of young stars sits about 600 light years away and consists of several hundred stars that are only a few hundred million years old. That’s compared to our Sun’s four-and-a-half billion years. Although the Beehive can be seen as a small fuzzy patch with unaided eyes under dark skies, it’s best viewed with binoculars.
To find the Beehive Cluster, look south and follow a line from brilliant Sirius – the brightest star in the sky – upward and slightly to the left, toward another of the sky’s brightest stars, Procyon. Continue that path about the same distance upward and then a couple of finger widths to the left.
While the Beehive Cluster is visible in the first half of the night all month long, the best times to look for it are the first and last weeks of the month, as the Moon shines brightly mid-month, making faint objects like this cluster more difficult see.
And here are the phases of the Moon for March.
You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov
That’s all for this month.