SkyDiary
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Find out what’s up in the night sky:
Upcoming astoronomical events, interesting observations, packed with everything a stargazer needs to know.

Observations are described for the NORTHERN hemisphere and can be made by naked eye, small binoculars or by small telescope.

March 2018

Phases of the Moon

Full Moon:March 2
Last Quarter:March 9
New Moon:March 17
First Quarter:March 24
Full Moon:March 31

Mercury and Venus

On March 15, Mercury is at the greatest eastern elongation from the Sun. It means that the planet is to the east from the Sun and the angle between the Sun and Mercury is the greatest one at that evening. Mercury sets down about 1 hour after the Sun and is visible over the western horizon early in the evening. Its magnitude will be around (-0.3), which is quite bright.

From the beginning of March, also the planet Venus will be on the evening sky. At the beginning of March, it sets down together with the Sun, but its visibility improves rapidly. Its magnitude will be around (-3.8) during the whole month, so it is a brilliant object, easily visible by naked eye.

You can find Mercury using small binoculars. Mercury will be to the north of Venus and quite close to it (around 5-7 degrees), so both planets can be observed simultaneously using binoculars with a small magnification. Try it, and then try to find Mercury by naked eye! This is the best chance to do so in the whole year 2018!

Mars Observation: Great perihelic opposition 2018

On February 12, 2018, the diameter of Mars exceeded 6 arc-seconds, so that the details on its surface and in its atmosphere can be observed using the telescope with an aperture of 100mm and more and a magnification 100x and more.

In March, there is the summer on the northern hemisphere of Mars and the winter on its southern hemisphere. This means that the northern hemisphere is inclined towards the Sun (and so also towards our Earth). The northern cup is receding rapidly. To recognize and understand various surface details, you will need a good map of Mars (e.g. try the British astronomical Association, or some Internet resources). On the southern hemisphere of Mars, you can sometimes see a white patch near the south pole. It is not the southern polar cap, it is Hellas, the huge basin about 6-8 km below the average surface, which is now covered by frost (water + carbon dioxide). To see all these fascinating details, you need to wake up early in the morning, because Mars is on the morning sky. On March 25,2018, Mars is at quadrature, i.e. the angle between Mars and Sun is 90 degrees as seen from our Earth. It means that when the Sun rises, Mars culminates over the southern horizon reaching its highest elevation.

Article by (C) G. Okša