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.

THE SUN and PLANETS in MARCH 2019, Rise & Set,  Mag. & Cons.
      March  1    NZDT           March 31    NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set
SUN  -26.7  Aqr   6.58am  8.07pm  -26.7  Psc   7.32am  7.17pm
Merc  -0.1  Psc   8.34am  8.36pm    0.9  Aqr   5.31am  6.19pm
Venus -4.1  Sgr   3.34am  6.10pm   -3.9  Aqr   4.35am  5.59pm
Mars   1.2  Ari  12.05pm 10.24pm   .1.4  Tau  11.51am  9.24pm
Jup   -2.0  Oph  12.38am  3.39pm   -2.2  Oph  10.49pm  1.51pm
Sat    0.6  Sgr   2.32am  5.27pm    0.6  Sgr  12.44am  3.37pm
Uran   5.9  Ari  11.12am 10.03pm    5.9  Ari   9.21am  8.08pm
Nep    8.0  Aqr   7.29am  8.23pm    8.0  Aqr   5.33am  6.24pm
Pluto 14.5  Sgr   2.53am  5.47pm   14.5  Sgr  12.58am  3.51pm

             March  1  NZDT          March 28  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening        morning     evening
Civil:    start 6.33am, end  8.33pm   start 7.07am, end 7.43pm
Nautical: start 5.59am, end  9.07pm   start 6.35am, end 8.15pm
Astro:    start 5.24am, end  9.42pm   start 6.03am, end 8.47pm

  New moon:      March  7 at  5.04am (Mar.6, 16:04 UT)
  First quarter: March 14 at 11.27pm (10:27 UT)
  Full Moon:     March 21 at  2.43pm (01:43 UT)
  Last quarter   March 28 at  5.10pm (04:10 UT)

The southern Autumnal equinox is on March 21 at 11 am.

PLANETS in March 2019.

The three brightest planets are all morning objects, rather more spread out than in January and early February. Mercury also becomes visible in the dawn sky at the end of March, you'd need to look low to the east about 50 minutes before sunrise to see it. Neptune will be close by.

MERCURY is a nominal evening object at the beginning of March but will be too close to the Sun to observe. It is at inferior conjunction on the 15th with the planet some 3.5° north of the Sun at its closest. Mercury will then be 92.5 million km from the Earth and 56.7 million from the Sun.

After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object, set to make its best morning appearance of the year. By the end of March it rises some 2 hours before the Sun. At magnitude 1 it should be visible low to the east about an hour before sunrise. Mercury will be 12° below Venus and a little to the latter's right

As a result of the looping path of the planet, Mercury is stationary twice in March, on the 5th and the 27th.

VENUS rises about 3 hours before the Sun all month, a brilliant object towards the east in the dawn sky. It starts a trip across Capricornus on the 1st moving on into Aquarius on the 25th. On March 3 the 13% lit crescent moon is just over a degree above the planet.

JUPITER moves slowly to the east in Ophiuchus. By the end of March it will be rising well before midnight. The moon is closest to Jupiter on the afternoon of March 27 when the two will be 2° apart. For NZ their separation will be about 5.5° on the morning of 27th, with the gibbous moon to the left of Jupiter. The following morning they will be nearly 8° apart with the moon, now close to last quarter apart, some 8° to the lower right of the planet

SATURN is in Sagittarius, rising about two hours after Jupiter. The moon passes close to Saturn twice during the month. On the morning of the 2nd, at ca 6am NZ time, the nearer cusp of crescent moon will be less than half a degree from Saturn. The second close approach on March 29 is at about 6pm, when the two are not visible from New Zealand.

Occultations of Saturn occur at both conjunctions. The first is visible from equatorial regions of the Pacific to the north of NZ, the second spans the Atlantic Ocean from Brazil to the west of southern Africa. Occultations of Saturn by the Moon occur at each conjunction throughout the year. At least two are visible from New Zealand, the first on April 25/26.

NEPTUNE is at conjunction with the Sun on the 7th, it then becomes a morning object. By the end of March it will rise 2 hours before the Sun. It will be just over one degree to the lower right of Mercury on the morning of the 31st. A 4th magnitude star is half a degree below and right of Neptune. The two planets will be only half a degree apart a couple of mornings later. The encounter provides a good opportunity for a binocular observation of Neptune.

PLUTO is a morning object in Sagittarius. It is not far from Saturn which is catching up with Pluto. The two are just under 5° apart on the 1st reducing to just over 3° by the 31st. As a result each occultation of Saturn by the moon during the year is followed, a few hours later, by an occultation of Pluto. Pluto is too faint to observe these events


MARS is a very early evening object, moving from Aries to Taurus on March 24. It ends the month 3° above the Pleiades. By then it will set just over two hours after the Sun, making it a difficult low object close to northwest about an hour after sunset.

The crescent moon will be 6.5° from Mars on the 11th and slightly further from it on the 12th.

URANUS sets a couple of hours after the Sun at the beginning of March and about 1 hour after the Sun on the 31st. Hence observation would be difficult especially late in the month.

BRIGHTEST ASTEROIDS in MARCH, mag. const. time of transit

               MARCH 1   NZDT      MARCH 31 NZDT  
               Mag  Cons  transit    Mag  Cons  transit
(1)  Ceres     8.6   Oph   7.20am    8.2   Oph   5.39am
(2)  Pallas    8.3   Vir   4.56am    7.9   Boo   2.49am
(3)  Juno      9.3   Tau   7.16pm    9.7   Ori   6.09pm
(4)  Vesta     7.9   Aqr   1.54pm    8.1   Psc  12.47pm
(532)Herculina 9.2   Cnc  12.02am    9.7   Lyn   9.57pm

CERES, moving to the east in Ophiuchus, rises at 12.18 am on the 1st and 10.34 pm on the 31st, so is essentially a morning object. The asteroid will be about 12° from Jupiter.

PALLAS rises at 11.10 pm on the 1st advancing to 9.40 pm on the 31st. It moves from Virgo to Bootes on the 8th and is some 5° from Arcturus, mag 0.16 at the end of March. By then Pallas will be the brightest asteroid.

JUNO is an evening object in Taurus, setting at 12.52 am on the 1st and 11.30 pm on the 31st. It moves from Taurus to Orion on March 9. It is about 7.5° above Aldebaran from March 11 to 15 and 6° below Bellatrix, gamma Ori, mag 1.66 at the end of March.

VESTA is at conjunction March 7 when it will be 4.4° south of the Sun. It will then be 500 million km from the Earth, 352 million beyond the Sun. By March 31 it will rise about one hour before the Sun.

HERCULINA rises at 8.11 pm on the 1st, it moves from Cancer to Lynx on the 9th and rises at 6.10 pm on the 31st setting about 7.5 hours later. With a declination +33° it will be very low as seen from NZ.

Brian Loader


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