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 SUN and PLANETS in March 2020, Rise & Set  Mag. & Cons.
            March 1 NZDT              March 31 NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set
SUN  -26.7  Aqr   6.59am  8.05pm  -26.7  Psc   7.33am  7.16pm
Merc   3.5  Aqr   6.20am  7.22pm    0.0  Aqr   5.17am  6.23pm
Venus -4.3  Psc  10.49am  9.42pm   -4.5  Tau  11.39am  8.58pm
Mars   1.1  Sgr   1.47am  4.59pm    0.8  Cap   1.30am  4.18pm
Jup   -2.0  Sgr   2.37am  5.33pm   -2.1  Sgr   1.02am  3.52pm
Sat    0.7  Sgr   3.20am  6.03pm    0.7  Cap   1.34am  4.13pm
Uran   5.8  Ari  11.29am 10.10pm    5.9  Ari   9.38am  8.15pm
Nep    8.0  Aqr   7.37am  8.25pm    8.0  Aqr   5.41am  6.26pm
Pluto 14.5  Sgr   2.57am  5.53pm   14.5  Sgr   1.02am  3.57pm

            March 1  NZDT          March 29  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening        morning     evening
Civil:    start 6.34am, end  8.32pm   start 7.08am, end  7.42pm
Nautical: start 6.00am, end  9.06pm   start 6.36am, end  8.14pm
Astro:    start 5.25am, end  9.41pm   start 6.04am, end  8.46pm

   March PHASES OF THE MOON, times NZDT & UT
  First quarter: Mar  3 at  8.57am (Mar  2, 19:57 UT)
  Full Moon:     Mar 10 at  6.47am (Mar  9, 17:47 UT)
  Last quarter   Mar 16 at 10.34pm (09:34 UT)
  New Moon:      Feb 24 at 10.28pm (09:28 UT)


VENUS is the only naked eye evening planet in March. It sets about 100 minutes after the Sun. It will be rather low, some 10° up and 30° north of due west half an hour after sunset. A conjunction with Uranus on the 8th will give a chance to get a binocular view of the latter 2.2° above Venus.

On the 28th the crescent moon will be some 7° from Venus. Two days later the planet moves into Taurus heading towards the Pleiades.

MERCURY is at its best as a morning object during March. It rises some 40 minutes before the Sun on the 1st with the interval increasing to about 140 minutes in the second half of the month. The planet will then be 14 to 15° up and almost due east an hour before sunrise. With a magnitude 0.0, this will present the best chance of the year to see Mercury as a morning object.

On the morning of the 21st, the moon as a thin crescent, will be just over 3° to the right of, and slightly higher than Mercury

MARS, JUPITER, SATURN and PLUTO are all quite close to one another in the morning sky during March with Saturn lowest. On the 1st Mars will be highest, by the 31st it will be only a degree above Saturn

Mars passes Jupiter on the 21st when it will be 40 arc-minutes to the right of Jupiter in the morning sky. Mars goes on to a very close conjunction with Pluto, at their closest they are only 38 arc-second apart. As seen from NZ they will be some 20 arc-minute apart on the morning of the 23rd and 15 arc-minutes on the 24th. Finally, on the morning of the 31st, Mars will be just over 1° from Saturn. They are a little closer to one another on the first two mornings of April.

The moon passes Mars on March 18. At their closest they will be less than a degree apart. But this stage is not visible from NZ. For NZ, on the morning of the 18th the moon will be 7° above Mars, the following morning it will be nearly 5° below the planet. On the latter date the moon will also be about 4° to the lower right of Saturn and a similar distance above Jupiter

URANUS is a low evening object. It will be 2° above Venus on the 8th. By the end of March it sets 1 hour after the Sun.

NEPTUNE is too close to the Sun to observe in March. It is at conjunction on the 8th.


                 March 1 NZDT      March 29 NZDT  
                Mag  Cons  transit    Mag  Cons  transit
(1)  Ceres      9.3   Cap  11.47am    9.3   Cap  10.34am
(4)  Vesta      8.3   Tau   6.10pm    8.5   Tau   4.54pm

CERES is a low morning object. It will be just over 3° to the upper right of the crescent moon on the 21st. By the end of March Ceres will be at the opposite side of Capricornus to Saturn and Mars.

VESTA is an evening object. On the 1st it will be less than 1° to the upper right of the moon. An occultation occurs visible from Hawaii. A second close approach takes place on March 29, with Vesta half a degree above the northern limb of the moon. There is another occultation visible from parts of the Pacific well to the north of NZ.

Brian Loader