Minnesota StarWatch: Mars Advances – Austin Daily Herald

By Deane Morrison

At the start of the month of the same name, Mars glistens beneath bright Venus in the predawn sky. To the right (south) of the planets is the Sagittarius teapot, while the curved teaspoon of stars hangs above and between the teapot and the planets. Moving south again, look for the curvy form of Scorpius and his red heart, Antares.

Photo provided

Mars rises throughout the month and Saturn climbs on the horizon in the middle of the month. The ringed planet passes under Venus between the 27th and 28th and ends in March under and between its two other planets. A waning moon visits Antares on the 23rd, then sails to the planets. On the 28th, a skinny old crescent moon rises beneath the three planets. But to see all four objects, you’ll need to look up shortly after moonrise, otherwise the sun will have blown away at least some of the planets.

In the evening sky, the great knot of bright winter constellations makes its last fight in March. If you haven’t seen them, look south to southwest as night falls. Appreciate Sirius, as Canis Major, the big dog, at the bottom of the group, then marvel at the brilliant Capella, at the top, as Auriga, the charioteer. The starry array is so large you’ll have to tilt your head back to see Capella.

The March full moon shines on the night of the 17th to 18th under the tail of Leo, the lion. As the night progresses, the moon and the lion seem to chase the winter constellations to the west.

The vernal equinox arrives at 10:33 a.m. on the 20th. At this time, the sun crosses the equator in the northern sky and an observer in space would see the Earth lit up from pole to pole. Also, the vernal equinox ushers in six months in which day length increases as we travel north. And even if we stay put, we experience the fastest increases in day length near this equinox, because that’s the time of year when the sun moves fastest north.

Public night sky viewings at the University of Minnesota at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses have been reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information see:

• Duluth Planetarium, Marshall W. Alworth: www.d.umn.edu/planet

• Twin Cities, Minnesota Astrophysical Institute: www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight

• Discover astronomy programs, free telescope events and planetarium shows at

University of Minnesota Bell Museum: www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/astronomy

• Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy at: http://www.astro.umn.edu

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