3 things stargazers should look for in the night sky throughout March
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
February 28, 2019, 5:48:39 PM EST
March marks the official end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the changing of the seasons will be accompanied by an eerie glow in the night sky visible only twice a year.
This month will also bring the final opportunities to see some wintertime constellations and the last supermoon of 2019.
Here are three astronomy events to mark on your calendar throughout March:
1. Moon to glide by Mars, the Pleiades star cluster
When: March 10-12
Evening stargazers will be treated to a close encounter in the western sky as the crescent moon passes by Mars and the Pleiades star cluster.
Mars has been gradually growing dimmer in the night sky since it reached opposition in July, but it will be easy to spot on the evenings of March 10 and March 11 as the crescent moon passes nearby.
No telescope is required to see the close encounter as both the moon and Mars are easily visible to the unaided eye.
On the evening of March 12, the moon will then pass near the Pleiades star cluster, a grouping of stars near the famed constellation Orion. The less light pollution, the more stars are able to be seen in the star cluster.
"This is a great target for a simple pair of binoculars since there are so many star that can bee seen here with just a little magnification," AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.
This will be one of the last opportunities for those in the Northern Hemisphere to spot the Pleiades high in the night sky as the star cluster is not visible in the summer months.
2. Supermoon to follow Vernal Equinox
When: March 20
Winter will come to a close on March 20 just hours before the last supermoon of 2019.
The vernal equinox marks the official start to spring across the Northern Hemisphere with the changing of the season officially taking place at 5:58 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.
Not long after spring kicks off, the third and final supermoon of the year will shine bright in the sky.
“The last time the full Moon and the spring equinox coincided this closely (4 hours apart) was in March 2000,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac said on its website.
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March’s full moon is also known as the Full Worm Moon.
“At this time of the year, the ground begins to soften enough for earthworm casts to reappear, inviting the return of robins and migrating birds—a true sign of spring,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac reported.
Other names for March’s full moon include the Sap Moon, the Crow Moon, the Sugar Moon and the Lenten Moon.
3. See the zodiacal light glow
When: Mid- to late-March
An eerie glow will appear in the evening sky in mid- to late March as the evenings surrounding the equinox bring a unique opportunity to see the zodiacal light.
“What we're seeing is sunlight reflecting off dust grains that circle the Sun in the inner solar system,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on its website.
“It looks like a hazy pyramid of light in the west after true darkness falls,” EarthSky reported.
Unlike many astronomical events that require cloud-free sky conditions on a specific date, the zodiacal light should be visible in dark areas in the weeks leading up to and immediately following the equinox. This allows onlookers the luxury of waiting until the weather cooperates to view the astronomical phenomenon.
To best see the zodiacal light, head to a dark area where there is little light pollution. Bright city lights can easily wash out the dim glow in the evening sky.
Onlookers in the Southern Hemisphere will have their opportunity to see the zodiacal light before dawn, rather than after sunset in the Northern Hemisphere.
The next opportunity to see the zodiacal light will be in mid-September leading up to the autumnal equinox.
Looking back at February
The month kicked off with a bang when a meteor streaked across the sky over Florida before making a crash landing in western Cuba. Loud explosions were heard across the region on the afternoon of Feb. 1 as the celestial stone entered Earth’s atmosphere.
(Photo/AccuWeather Astronomy Fan Frank Little)
(Photo/AccuWeather Astronomy Fan Deirdre Hora)
(Image/NOAA/NASA/Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center)
(Image/© Zuluaga et al./Google Earth)
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