THE SOLAR SYSTEM IN MARCH 2018

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise stated. Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. Data adapted from that shown by GUIDE 9

THE SUN and PLANETS in MARCH 2018, Rise & Set, Mag. & Cons.

      March  1         NZDT          March 31    NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set   
SUN  -26.7  Aqr   6.59am  8.06pm  -26.7  Psc   7.32am  7.17pm
Merc  -1.3  Aqr   7.48am  8.32pm    5.6  Psc   7.57am  7.07pm
Venus -3.9  Aqr   7.59am  8.40pm   -3.9  Ari   8.12am  8.05pm
Mars   0.8  Aqr  12.29am  3.35pm    0.3  Sgr  11.43pm  2.54pm
Jup   -2.2  Lib  10.58pm  1.15pm   -2.4  Lib   8.59pm 11.14am
Sat    0.6  Sgr   1.44am  4.44pm    0.5  Sgr  11.53pm  2.52pm
Uran   5.9  Psc  10.51am  9.52pm    5.9  Psc   9.01am  7.58pm
Nep    8.0  Aqr   7.17am  8.17pm    8.0  Aqr   5.21am  6.18pm
Pluto 14.5  Sgr   2.45am  5.37pm   14.5  Sgr  12.50am  3.41pm

              March  1  NZDT              March 31  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening        morning     evening
Civil:    start 6.33am, end 8.33pm   start 7.07am, end 7.42pm
Nautical: start 5.59am, end 9.06pm   start 6.35am, end 8.14pm
Astro:    start 5.24am, end 9.42pm   start 6.03am, end 8.47pm

The southern autumnal equinox is on March 21 at 5.16am NZDT

MARCH PHASES OF THE MOON, times NZDT (& UT)

  Full moon:     March  2 at  1.51pm (00:51 UT)
  Last quarter   March 10 at 12.20am (Mar  9, 11:20 UT)
  New moon:      March 18 at  2.12am (Mar 17, 13:12 UT)
  First quarter: March 25 at  4.35am (Mar 24, 15:35 UT)
  Full Moon:     April  1 at  1.37am (Mar 31, 12.37 UT)

MERCURY is an evening object through March but at best, mid month, it sets only half an hour after the Sun, so is always a difficult object. It reaches inferior conjunction on April 1

VENUS, also an evening object, is little easier then Mercury. For the first three weeks of March the two planets are quite close in the sky, it is only in the last few days that Venus pulls away from Mercury. By the end of the month Venus sets 48 minutes after the Sun, so will be very low after sunset.

MARS rise near midnight during March so is best seen in the morning sky. It moves away from Antares and closes in on Saturn during the month. The two planets are less than 2° apart on the 31st. The moon will be some 5° from Mars on the morning of the 10th.

JUPITER rises late evening at the beginning of March and mid evening by the end of the month. The moon will be 5° from Jupiter late evening on the 7th, two days before the planet is stationary.

SATURN is slow moving in Sagittarius with Mars closing in on it by the end of March. The ring system is wide open at present with Saturn's north pole tilted at an angle of over 25° towards the Earth.

URANUS is an early evening object in Pisces during March. By the end of the month it will be very close to Venus, but this means Uranus will set too soon after the Sun to observe.

NEPTUNE is at conjunction with the Sun on the 4th. At conjunction it will be less than 1° from the Sun, but nearly 30 AU, 4478 million km beyond it. After conjunction Neptune moves into the morning sky to rise more than two hours before the Sun on the 31st.

PLUTO, in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.5, is a morning object rising 6.5 hours earlier than the Sun by the end of the month. It will then be some 13° east of Saturn and 8° below the handle of the teapot as seen 90 minutes before sunrise.

BRIGHTEST ASTEROIDS in MARCH, magnitude, constellation, time of transit

           MARCH 1                MARCH 31   
            Mag  Cons   transit    Mag  Cons   transit
(1) Ceres   7.4   Cnc   11.33pm    8.0   Cnc    9.31pm
(2) Pallas  9.1   Eri    6.14pm    9.1   Eri    5.05pm
(4) Vesta   7.5   Oph    8.00am    7.1   Sgr    6.43am

(1) CERES is slow moving in Cancer being stationary on March 20. It is best placed about mid evening. The moon is in Cancer on March 26 & 27 but about 15° south of Ceres.

(2) PALLAS is an evening object, magnitude 9.0 to 9.1. It sets about 1am on March 1 and 11.30 pm March 31. Mid month it will be 3° below gamma Eri, mag 2.9

(4) VESTA is essentially a morning object, rising about 1 am on the 1st and 11.30 pm on the 31st. It starts the month in Ophiuchus moving to the east on a path about 5° from that of Mars, although the latter moves ahead of the asteroid during March. Both cross into Sagittarius during March, Mars on the 11th, Vesta on the 19th.

 

Brian Loader

 

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