THE SOLAR SYSTEM IN MARCH 2021

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours). Rise and Set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. Data is adapted from that shown by GUIDE 9.1.

The Southern Autumnal equinox is on March 20, with the Sun crossing the celestial equator at about 10pm.

THE SUN and PLANETS in MARCH 2021, Rise & Set  Mag. & Cons.
          Mar 1        NZDT           Mar 31        NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set
SUN  -26.7  Aqr   6.59am  8.06pm  -26.7  Psc   7.32am  7.16pm
Merc   0.1  Cap   4.45am  6.53pm   -0.4  Aqr   6.04am  6.46pm
Venus -3.9  Aqr   6.25am  7.56pm   -4.0  Psc   7.37am  7.24pm
Mars   0.9  Tau   1.40pm 11.12pm    1.3  Tau   1.10pm 10.17pm
Jup   -2.0  Cap   4.54am  7.03pm   -2.1  Cap   3.29am  5.22pm
Sat    0.7  Cap   4.12am  6.38pm    0.8  Cap   2.28am  4.49pm
Uran   5.8  Ari  11.50am 10.21pm    5.9  Ari   9.59am  8.26pm
Nep    8.0  Aqr   7.49am  8.31pm    8.0  Aqr   5.53am  6.32pm
Pluto 14.6  Sgr   3.05am  6.03pm   14.6  Sgr   1.10am  4.07pm

              March 1  NZDT          March 31  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening       morning     evening
Civil:    start 6.33am, end 8.32pm   start 7.07am, end  7.42pm
Nautical: start 6.00am, end 9.06pm   start 6.35am, end  8.14pm
Astro:    start 5.24am, end 9.41pm   start 6.03am, end  8.46pm

   FEB PHASES OF THE MOON, times NZDT & UT
  Last quarter:  Mar  6 at  2.30pm (01:30 UT)
  New Moon:      Mar 13 at 11.21pm (10:21 UT)
  First quarter: Mar 22 at  3.40am (Mar 21, 14:40 UT)
  Full Moon:     Far 29 at  7.48am (Mar 28, 18:48 UT)

THE PLANETS in MARCH 2021

MERCURY is in the morning sky. It passes Jupiter early in March. The two are closest on the morning of the 5th, at 6am they will be half a degree apart with Mercury, magnitude 0.1, to the left of Jupiter. At 6am the two planets will be 12.5° above the horizon 10° to the south of east.

Two mornings later Mercury will be at its greatest elongation, 27° west of the Sun and rising 2 hours and 20 minutes earlier.

By the end of March Mercury will still be rising 90 minutes before the Sun.

VENUS is at superior conjunction on March 26 when the planet will be just over a degree from the Sun. After conjunction the planet becomes an evening object setting very shortly after the Sun by the 31st. With Venus rising only half a hour before the Sun on the 1st, the planet will be virtually unobservable throughout March.

MARS passes the Matariki (Pleiades) star cluster early in the month, with the planet some 2.5° from the brightest star on the evenings of the 4th and 5th.

Later in the month, on the evenings of the 19th and 20th Mars will be 7° from Aldebaran, at magnitude 0.99 the brightest star in Taurus. Also on the 19th the crescent moon just over 5° to the left of Mars, the following evening it will be 6° to the right of the planet.

JUPITER and SATURN are morning sky objects, their separation increases during March from just over 8° to 12°. The slower moving Saturn falls behind Jupiter, which results in Saturn rising first and being higher in the sky.

The moon passes Saturn during daylight hours on the 10th, but is 3.6° to the right of Jupiter the following morning.

PLUTO, also is a morning object still in Sagittarius, rises even earlier than Saturn.

URANUS is moving towards conjunction with the Sun. It will set 90 minutes after the Sun on the 31st.

NEPTUNE is at conjunction with the Sun on the 11th, so is unobservable during March.

POSSIBLE BINOCULAR ASTEROIDS in March

                   MAR 1 NZDT          MAR 31 NZDT  
                Mag  Cons  transit    Mag  Cons  transit
 (1) Ceres      9.2   Psc   3.08pm    9.0   Cet   1.53pm
 (4) Vesta      6.1   Leo   2.15am    6.5   Leo  11.41pm
(29) Amphitrite 9.3   Leo   1.04am   10.0   Leo  10.45pm

CERES sets early evening, about 90 minutes after the Sun on the 1st. By the end of March the asteroid will be only 6° from the Sun.

VESTA is at opposition to the Sun on the 7th, with a magnitude 6.0. It rises at 8.57 pm on the 1st and 6.45pm on the 31st.

AMPHITRITE is in Leo about 15° from Vesta. It fades during the month following its opposition towards the end of February. Mid March will find Amphitrite, at magnitude 9.6, less than 3° from Regulus, mag 1.4.

Brian Loader

 

 

 

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