Find out what to go out and look at this month

Planets:

All five naked-eye planets can be glimpsed in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east, moving from Capricornus (The Sea-Goat) to the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Bearer) in the second week of the month. It’ll then disappear into the twilight after that. Venus is in the east and it moves from the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer) into the constellation of Capricornus in the second week of the month. In the first half of the month, Venus passes close to Mars and in the last week of March, Venus passes close to Saturn. At the beginning of March, Venus will rise at 02:40 am (AWST) and at the end of the month it will rise at 2:50 am (AWST). Venus will also have its greatest elongation in the East on the 20th of March.

Mars is in the east and it will move from the constellation of Sagittarius into the constellation of Capricornus at the end of the first week of the month. At the beginning of March, Mars will rise at 02:32 am (AWST) and at the end of the month it will rise at 2:22 am (AWST). Jupiter is low in the east in the constellation of Aquarius in the second half of the month. By the end of March, Jupiter will rise at 04:57 am (AWST). Saturn is in the east in the constellation of Capricornus the whole of March. At the beginning of March, Saturn will set at 09:39 am (AWST) and by the end of the month, it will set at 07:45 pm (AWST).

Uranus can be found in the evening sky in the constellation of Aries (The Ram). At the beginning of March, Uranus will set at 09:39 am (AWST) and by the end of the month, it will set at 07:45 pm (AWST).

Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn on the 15/03/22 at 05:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
Venus near its greatest elongation in the East on the morning of 20/03/22. Image Credit: Stellarium
Uranus on the 15/03/22 at 08:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium

Conjunctions And Occultation:

Conjunctions involve objects in the Solar System, and more distant objects, such as a star. It’s an apparent phenomenon caused by the observer’s perspective where multiple objects that aren’t close together appear close in the sky.

In an occultation, an object passes across the line of sight between an observer and another object. A solar eclipse is an occultation of the Sun by the Moon.

  • 08/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Aldebaran and the Pleiades Cluster (Where to look)
  • 13/03/22 – Conjunction of Venus and Mars (Where to look)
  • 13/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Castor and Pollux (Where to look)
  • 16/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Regulus and Al Jabhah (Where to look)
  • 20/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)
  • 24/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Antares (Where to look)
  • 25/03/22 – Conjunction of Venus, Mars and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 28/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Venus, Mars and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 29/03/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Venus, Mars and Saturn (Where to look)

Astronomical Events This Month:

The March Equinox:

Equinoxes and Solstices. Image Copyright: timeanddate.com

On Sunday the 20th of March, The Northward Equinox occurs at 11:32 pm (AWST), marking the beginning of astronomical Spring for the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of Autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. This is an exact moment when the Sun’s declination equals 0 as seen from the Earth. The two points where the ecliptic or the imaginary path the Sun seem to trace out along the celestial sphere meets the celestial equator are known as the equinoctial points.

The Equinox (literally meaning ‘equal nights’ in Latin) means that night and day are nearly equal worldwide, and that the Sun rises due east of an observer on the equinox and sets due west. The term Equilux is sometimes used to discern the difference between the true Equinox and the point when sunlight length equals the length of the night. Several factors play a role in this, including the time it takes the physical diameter of the Sun to clear the horizon, atmospheric refraction, and the observer’s true position in their respective time zone. The Equilux occurs within a few days of either Equinox.

Things To Look At This Month:

Beehive Cluster:

The Beehive Cluster (M44) is an open cluster of faint stars in the constellation of Cancer and it’s also known as Praesepe (Latin for “manger”). The cluster is not quite bright enough to clearly be seen as stars but more like a “cloud”. It’s easily visible to the naked eye and has been known since prehistoric times. Since the Greeks in ~3 centuries BC, it has been described as a small cloud or nebula and is the origin of the term as no other naked eye object had a similar appearance.

Its true nature was not shown until Galileo used the first astronomical telescope in 1609 to discover that it was in fact a collection of about 40 stars. We now know of 200 core stars, but there could be possibly up to 1000 stars in an extended area of nearly 3 Moon diameters. The cluster is 15 light-years in diameter and it is 550 light-years away from Earth. The cluster contains a high proportion of variable stars of age 500-700 million years, this age of the cluster and its proper motion also coincide with those of the Hyades cluster in the constellation of Taurus, which suggests they may share similar origins.

Beehive Cluster on the 15/03/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Beehive Cluster (M44). Image Credit: Bob Franke
Centaurus A Galaxy:

Centaurus A or NGC 5128 is an elliptical galaxy that we see edge-on. The galaxy is the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky and one of the closest radio galaxies to earth. It’s between 10 to 16 million light-years away from us and It can be found in the Centaurus constellation. The galaxy itself has a diameter of 60,000 light-years making it 40% smaller than our galaxy and at its centre, it has a supermassive black hole with a mass of ~55 million suns. It was discovered in 1826 by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop from Parramatta, in New South Wales.

It’s a starburst galaxy meaning that it is undergoing a period of intense star formation compared to an average galaxy. Studies have confirmed that this high rate of star birth is caused by a collision between itself and a smaller spiral galaxy. The bright central bulge and the dark dust lane can be easily viewed using an amateur telescope however a larger telescope is required to view greater detail and contrast. Centaurus A is an extremely bright radio object, X-Rays in particular. The central supermassive black hole is the source of this with two long radio jets extending well beyond the visual bounds of the galaxy.

Centaurus A on the 15/03/21 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Centaurus A Galaxy - Image Credit: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)
Omega Centauri:

Omega Centauri or NGC 5139 is the largest and brightest globular cluster of 180 in the Milky Way and is the second-largest known, with only Mayall II in the Andromeda Galaxy being larger coming ins about twice its mass. The Globular cluster is located in Centaurus Constellation and it’s a naked eye ‘star’ and visible in binoculars as a ‘fuzzy blob’. Omega Centauri contains at least 3 million stars and the cluster has a diameter of roughly 150 light-years and the stars are roughly 12 billion years old. The average distance between the stars at the centre is around 10% of a light-year or more than 100 times the diameter of our solar system. It may be a dwarf galaxy that has been captured and disrupted by the Milky Way galaxy and measurements of its star movement by Hubble has indicated that a black hole may be located at the core of the cluster.

Omega Centauri on the 15/03/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Omega Centauri. Image Credit: Perth Observtory Volunteer Andrew Lockwood
The Jewel Box:

An open cluster the Jewel Box can be found very close in the Crux (Southern Cross) Constellation, the Jewel Box is located some 6,440 light-years away from Earth and is 14 light-years across. The cluster contains just over 100 stars, and with an estimated age of its stars being just 14 million years, this star cluster is one of the youngest clusters that we’ve found. The Jewel Box cluster also has some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way galaxy. These stars are supergiants and the red, white and blue stars in the centre of the cluster look very much like the lights of a traffic light.

Jewel Box on the 15/03/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Jewel Box in perspective - Image credit: ESO, NASA/ESA, Digitized Sky Survey 2 and Jesús Maíz Apellániz

Phases Of The Moon:

March 2022 Moon phases