See Venus, Saturn, Mars and the Moon this March

March 2022 is set to be a great month for spotting three bright planets in the sky.

Published: March 1, 2022 at 9:58 am
Get your own Space Pen when you subscribe to BBC Sky at Night Magazine today!

The morning sky is getting interesting in March 2022 as a trio of planets jostle for position.

Advertisement

Venus, Mars and Saturn all appear rather low when they are observed from the UK.

Dimmer Mars and Saturn take advantage of the fact that they appear close to the bright planet Venus which, shining at mag. –4.4, is considerably easier to see despite its low pre-sunrise altitude.

For more planetary observing advice, read our guide on how to see the planets this year, listen to our monthly Star Diary podcast our watch our monthly Online Planetarium.

A view of the sky looking southeast around 05:15 UT on 27 March.
Keep an eye on Venus, Mars and Saturn in March 2022, and watch out for a waning crescent Moon joining the trio of morning planets towards the month’s end. This is the view looking southeast around 05:15 UT on 27 March. Credit: Pete Lawrence

At the start of March, Mars rises approximately 90 minutes before the Sun, popping up above the southeast horizon while 5˚ south of Venus.

Mars will be shining at mag. +1.3 on this date, and easy to recognise because of its orange hue.

On 8 March, the gap will have closed between Venus and Mars, the separation being 4.3˚ on this date. Mars will be a fraction brighter too, at mag. +1.2.

By 13 March, the gap will have dropped to a fraction less than 4˚. It’s about this time that mag. +0.9 Saturn may be glimpsed, rising 30 minutes after Mars.

Venus remains close to Mars over the next few mornings, only starting to separate from the Red Planet around 18 March.

Mars, Venus and Saturn will be contained within a circle 12˚ across on this date.

By 23 March, the containing circle will have reduced in size to 8.5˚, the three planets now quite tightly packed together.

It’s fascinating to watch the pattern formed by the trio change shape over the remainder of the month.

An illustration showing the view of Venus, Saturn and Mars through binoculars on 31 March 2022
Look through 7x50 binoculars on 31 March at 05:00 UT to catch three planets. Credit: Pete Lawrence

On the morning of 24 March, they form a squat isosceles triangle, with Venus as the upper vertex. Mars will have brightened to mag. +1.1 on this date.

All three planets are above the horizon 60 minutes before the Sun, but will need at least 20 minutes longer to reach a visible altitude.

An altitude-challenged waning crescent Moon joins the group on 28 March. Located 5˚ below Mars, the 18%-lit waning crescent rises around 40 minutes before the Sun above the southeast horizon.

By 31 March, all three planets are contained within an area 6˚ across. Venus appears east of the group on this date, shining at mag. –4.2 and the easiest to see by far.

Meanwhile, Saturn remains at mag. +0.9, just 3˚ from Venus with mag. +1.1 Mars now 3.3˚ from Saturn.

As March transitions into April, Venus leaves Mars and Saturn, the dimmer pair reducing their separation to just 19 arcseconds on 5 April.

On that date, it will be possible to catch all three planets rising around the same time, approximately 80 minutes before the Sun above the east-southeast horizon.

Observing Venus in March 2022

Venus will appear brighter against a darker sky at the start of the month. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Venus will appear brighter against a darker sky at the start of the month. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Venus is a morning object in March, rising a couple of hours before the Sun at the month’s start and 80 minutes before the Sun at the end.

The planet reaches dichotomy this month, passing from crescent through to gibbous phase.

Dichotomy is the term used to indicate when a planet (or the Moon) reaches the 50% phase.

This month, dichotomy should occur on 21 March, but due to what’s known as the ‘phase anomaly’, through the eyepiece of a telescope Venus will appear half-lit a few days later than this theoretical prediction.

The phase anomaly is believed to be caused by how the planet’s thick atmosphere scatters sunlight.

Take a look through a telescope and make an estimate of the phase in the run up towards and beyond 21 March.

Venus drops in brightness over March, but only by a fifth of a magnitude.

Venus in its 50% phase. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Venus in its 50% phase. Credit: Pete Lawrence

On 1 March this most brilliant of planets appears to shine at mag. –4.4. On 31 March, at mag. –4.2, Venus will still look intense against the morning’s dawn twilight.

It appears best at the month’s start with a darker sky.

Mars and Saturn appear close to Venus. Saturn will be too close to the Sun to see properly at the month’s start, but it will be visible with Venus and Mars at the month’s end.

On 25 March, Venus sits 4.6˚ from mag. +1.1 Mars, and 4.1˚ from +0.9 Saturn, but the squat triangle formed by the three fails to gain much altitude above the southeast horizon as sunrise approaches.

An 18%-lit waning crescent Moon lies below the trio on the morning of 28 March.

Observing the planets in March 2022

The phase and relative sizes of the planets in March 2022. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence
The phase and relative sizes of the planets in March 2022. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Venus

  • Best time to see: 1 March, 40 minutes before sunrise
  • Altitude: 10˚ (low)
  • Location: Sagittarius
  • Direction: Southeast
  • Features: Phase, faint shaded markings.
  • Recommended equipment: 75mm, or larger

Mercury

Mercury is a morning planet, not well placed at the start of March. On 1 March it shines at mag. –0.1, lies 2˚ southwest of mag. +0.9 Saturn and rises 30 minutes before the Sun. That offset deteriorates over the following days, and as a consequence, from the UK at least, Mercury is unlikely to be seen with the naked eye over the rest of the month.

Mars

  • Best time to see: 31 March, 50 minutes before sunrise
  • Altitude: 3˚ (very low)
  • Location: Capricornus
  • Direction: Southeast

Mars is visible in the morning sky as a mag. +1.3 object rising 90 minutes before the Sun on 1 March, when it appears 5˚ below mag. –4.4 Venus. Over the next few mornings, Mars and Venus appear to converge, both planets appearing separated by just 4˚ on 12 March.

A lovely, albeit rather low, triangular grouping of Mars, Venus and Saturn can be seen low above the southeast horizon 40 minutes prior to sunrise on 24 March. By 31 March, Mars will have brightened to mag. +1.1 and rises 80 minutes before the Sun. The Mars, Saturn and Venus triangle will be contained to an area less than 6˚ across on 31 March.

Through an eyepiece Mars is a bit disappointing, appearing to have an apparent diameter of 5 arcseconds at the month’s end. However, this will change during the year as Mars approaches opposition in early December 2022.

Jupiter

Jupiter reaches solar conjunction on 5 March and despite drawing away from the Sun’s position rapidly, is unlikely to be seen this month. On 31 March, mag. –1.9 Jupiter rises just 20 minutes before the Sun.

Saturn

  • Best time to see: 31 March, 50 minutes before sunrise
  • Altitude: 3˚ (very low)
  • Location: Capricornus
  • Direction: East-southeast

Saturn is a morning planet, slowly crawling away from the Sun during the month. Its placement in the sky isn’t very optimal at present, the planet not gaining much altitude despite rising at a reasonable time before the Sun.

If you have a flat southeast horizon, look out for mag. +0.9 Saturn, mag. +1.1 Mars and mag. –4.2 Venus together between 22–31 March. A thin, 18%-lit waning crescent Moon sits below the trio on the morning of 28 March.

Uranus

  • Best time to see: 1 March, 19:50 UT
  • Altitude: 33˚
  • Location: Aries
  • Direction: West-southwest

Mag. +7.9 Uranus may be seen 30˚ above the west-southwest horizon as true darkness arrives on 1 March. A 17%-lit waxing crescent Moon sits 6.5˚ to the southwest of Uranus on the evening of 6 March, and as a 25%-lit waxing crescent, 6˚ to the planet’s east on 7 March.

By mid-March, Uranus appears a fraction over 20˚ up above the western horizon as true darkness descends, but by the month’s end it falls to just 8˚. As a result, March marks the end of the current observational window for this distant world.

Neptune

Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on 13 March; consequently, the planet is not visible this month.

Advertisement

This guide originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.

Sponsored content