The night sky in March 2015

posted 28 Feb 2015, 13:27 by Pete Collins
by Anne Holt

Sunset:  1 March 17.46    31 March 19.42

British Summer Time begins in the early hours of Sunday, March 29th.

Solar eclipse 20 March

The big event this month is the solar eclipse on the morning of Friday 20th.   Unless you happen to be in the Faroe Islands or on a ship in the North Atlantic, it will only be partial.  From Manchester, the sun will be 89% obscured by the moon at 9.32 am. 
The eclipse starts soon after 8.30 and lasts until 10.42.
Fingers crossed that we can actually see the sun for at least part of this time, as the next comparable eclipse is not until 2026.  See our News page for details of our public viewing event in Heaton Park.

NASA's Dawn probe arrives at Ceres

Also, the NASA Dawn probe will reach dwarf planet Ceres on March 6th.  It has already sent back some good pictures as it approaches so we look forward to learning more about the largest body in the asteroid belt and the only dwarf planet in the inner solar system. Ceres will be visible in telescopes over the summer in the constellation of Sagittarius at a magnitude of around +9.

Constellations

We are now losing the winter highlights of Orion, Sirius and Taurus soon after midnight, though they are still promiinent in the south in the early part of the night.
Auriga, with the bright yellowish-white star Capella, is now overhead soon after sunset, with Gemini and Leo also prominent.
The not very obvious zodiac constellation, Cancer, is now well placed - and is currently home to the bright Jupiter.
The Plough is overhead by midnight, the handle pointing to the orange hued Arcturus, the brightest star north of the celestial equator.
By the end of March the Summer Triangle will be above the horizon soon after 2am - or by 1am if you've forgotten to put the clock forward.

Planets

Venus, at magnitude minus 3.9 is becoming even more prominent in the evening sky, setting around 8.30pm in early March and not until 11pm (BST) at the end of the month. On 4th it will be only 5 arcminutes from the much fainter Uranus,  Uranus being below and to the left of Venus.

Mars, at mag 1.9, is in Pisces.  It is just below Venus at the start of the month, setting around 8pm.  By month end it will be setting while the sky is still twilit, and very difficult to spot. On 11th, it will be only 11 arcminutes from Uranus but both will be extremely low on the Western horizon.

Uranus,  at mag 5.9, also in Pisces, is very low in the western sky.  By month end it will be setting before the sky is completely dark.

Jupiter, in Cancer, is still shining brightly through most of the night, being due south at around 9.45pm mid-month.  It will dim slightly from mag minus 2.5 to minus 2.3 during the course of the month.

Saturn is in Scorpio, now at mag 0.5, brightening to 0.3 by month end.   It will be rising soon after midnight before month end,  and reaching its highest point while the sky is still dark.  However, it will still be rather low in the South - about 18 degrees above the horizon.

Mercury might be spotted very low in the southeast dawn sky in the first few days of March, but is not visible for most of the month.

Neptune is not visible.

Meteor Showers

There are no showers to be seen from our latitudes in March.  The Gamma Normids peak on March 15th, with a ZHR of 6, but are only visible from further South.
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