Star Diary Podcast: 28 March to 3 April

What's coming up in the northern hemisphere's night sky in the month of 28 March to 3 April 2022.

BBC Sky at Night Magazine Star Diary podcast.
Published: March 28, 2022 at 8:00 am

What's coming up in the night sky in the week of 28 March to 3 April 2022.



Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting or to a digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings, listeners, welcome to Star Diary. What will now be a weekly guide to the best things to see in the night sky. Every Monday will give you a rundown of everything stargazers might want to look up for, starting with the week of the 28th of March to the 3rd of April 2022. I'm Ezzy Pearson and I'm joined on the podcast to date by our reviews editor, Paul Money. So Paul, what are your recommendations for the coming week?

Paul Money Hello, Ezzy. Yes, we've got an interesting week ahead, but it's one for early morning people.

Ezzy Pearson Oh no.

Paul Money So get your alarms set, because a lot of the events this week happen in the... Quite an inconvenient time, isn't it? But it's just one of those things. The sky doesn't go by our clock, does it? It does what it wants to do. So we start off on the 28th to the 29th with no bright planets in the evening skies. So it's all happening in the morning with Venus, Mars and Saturn because they're joined by the Crescent Moon. It's a very slim crescent moon below Mars on the 28th, but he's one of those things you've got to bear in mind around about 6:00 a.m. You got to look for the low moon rise because a lot of the planets will be up. The Moon is below Mars, so you know, it's going to be one of those things you need to wait until the Moon has risen and the sky will be gradually getting lighter. So it's a sort of battle of the planets now Venus, while it's easy and really bright, so it will stay visible even into bright twilight. But it's Mars and Saturn that are battling against the actual brightening twilight. But as you wait for the actual moon to rise, so now the thing is, on the next morning, the 29th Venus and Saturn are actually in conjunction and Mars will be to their right. So Saturn effectively will be as close to Venus as it can get for this particular apparition. So there'll be a nice little triangle sort of thing really for the actual conjunction or series of conjunction because it's all happening in the next few days, right through to the end of March itself. But as I say, it involves these three planets, because they sort of change in position. The way how their motions are taking place, Venus will be moving to the left of Saturn as Mars slowly creeps closer to Saturn. So what happens is we start to notice that they're getting closer and closer. As Venus is moving away from Saturn, you end up with a very shallow triangle, with Saturn being the apex pointing down.

Ezzy Pearson We always love a good triangle in the sky

Paul Money We do everything, everything... because we like shapes because they're easy. The eye is drawn to shapes more than just the all dot in the sky, unless you're particularly bright like Venus. So when we get to the 31st, we're actually looking at Venus, Saturn and Mars firmly form in this slight, so I say triangle, but you could also argue it's a bit of a curve. It depends on how you want to define it, but this is really nice in the morning sky, but you do have to be up I'm afraid. You know, we're talking about six, six a.m. So the thing for these sort of times, though, it's a shame, really.

Ezzy Pearson Some people get up at that time anyway. I am not one of them, but some people do.

Paul Money Neither am I. Well, let's stay up all night. You know, it's one of those things that I'm not very good at setting alarms and not get because I usually turn the alarm off and then turn over and go back to sleep. But, you know, I'm better staying up. I'm one of those. If if it's a clear night, then I'm actually a lot better staying up than trying to put the alarm on as such. But so we've got quite a few arrangements. And the interesting thing is that if you watch for each consecutive morning, you'll see the changing shape of the planets, how they're making these sort of strange triangles, sort of thing. So, you know, I say right at the beginning, they are not quite. I always think it's funny because it's not quite a right angle triangle. It's a left handed triangle, but you get what I mean. Yeah, but it gradually distorts. It reminds me of the Plough asterism because over the, you know, thousands of years, it actually changes its shape. But of course, we don't notice from a night to night, do we? Yeah. Whereas with the planets, their motions mean we can see the changing shape of this grouping over the course of this particular week. So we get to April the 3rd and in fact, they're almost in a straight line. All three planets now. Mars has crept closer to Saturn because next week, which won't, we'll come to next week when we actually close together and in conjunction. But at the moment, you've got brilliant Venus to the left. This is the 3rd you need to look a little bit early to get the sky a little bit darker. So I'd send around about, say, 5:50, something like that in the morning, depending on where you are, will also effect how bright the sky is. Of course, the further north you are, the light the sky will be, and the further south you are, the darker it'll be. It's just one of those quirks isn't it with the actual sky. So we've got this line of taking place or thing as the rise in the morning twilight Mars, you can see gradually catching up with Saturn.

Ezzy Pearson It is remarkable how much of a straight line are in actually on the 3rd. It's one of those things that it's I always forget when I see one of those line ups that they're all orbiting in the same plane. Of course, they're all going to go into a straight line occasionally. But it's always, always amazing when it actually happens.

Paul Money Yeah, I mean, you know, and but line ups like this, you know, they're not as regular as you'd think. So because you've got to have a grouping of planets. And so, you know, I mean, two isn't really a line, is it sort of thing unless it lines up with a star? But when you got three planets, it makes a big difference sort of thing. Now, when we get to our fourth week hint hint, they'll be joined by another planet and there'll be a line of before, but we'll come to that another time.

Ezzy Pearson Tune back in for that one.

Paul Money Yeah, get tuned in for the next one. I mean, Venus is so dazzling, it will be the one that catches your attention first. And so just you just wander your eyes to the right and two more dots and that will be Mars And Saturn. As I say Mars is rapidly... Mars the inner planet, of course, compared with this. now Venus is an inner planet, but Mars is sort of outside our orbit. Venus is inside, so the motions can be a little bit odd. So Mars is gradually passing or going to be passing Saturn, whereas Venus is a brilliant planet, but it's dropping back in towards the solar. Why it's so bright. That's the one you can hold on to for the longest. So you know quite fascinating to see them in this lineup . But you do need several planets together to actually do this, and it doesn't always happen, but as I say we'll be in for a treat later on in the month. So that's planet wise. There's not a great deal happening, I'm afraid, in the nice, convenient evening time, but there is at least one event we can look at and on the same day, so we're looking at Mars April 3rd here in the evening. Look out for the slim crescent moon. Now you want to be looking about, I'd say, about nine o'clock ish. But as soon as you can spot the Moon in the evening sky, allow it to get a bit darker the sky because you're going to need that for the next target because the crescent moon is right next to Uranus. Now, Uranus is getting to the point whereby it will soon be lost in the bright evening twilight. We will lose it completely for a seasonal thing, and then we'll have to wait quite a few months before it merges back into the morning sky. So this is, I think this is the best last gasp for getting Uranus because you've got a nice, bright thing, something you should be able to find the crescent moon now. So we had the crescent moon in the morning sky, and he's obviously passed through new phase mid-week. And so therefore it's now crept into the morning sky. And so we're actually got this really is a very slim crescent Moon, and it's about a degree from Uranus, so you should be able to find them in a good pair of 10x50 binoculars s7x50 should help them spot them as well. But I say you need the sky to get a little bit darker so you can pick out Uranus and Uranus is - Well, it's that planet that we always say is technically naked eye, but it's borderline, isn't it? So it depends on your eye sight and sky conditions, light pollution. There's so many factors that will affect it.

Ezzy Pearson It's no Venus

Paul Money It's definitely not very. No, no. I mean, Venus is dazzling, but I think it put a telescope on the Venus and you are dazzled by it now or not.

Ezzy Pearson Yeah. Venus is hard to miss, you know, like it's one of those ones that like when you're driving along you'll suddenly go, Oh, that's not very bright. Oh, that's because it's not stars.

Paul Money Yeah, exactly. It's one of those things that you know that you can see why Venus got called the morning or Evening Star, because it was so obvious. But Uranus borderline... magnitude 5.8, thereabouts. So yes. So you do need the sky to get darker to spot that. But binoculars should spot it, and it'll be to the right of the crescent moon in your pair of binoculars. So what else is it? Well, it's again the last gasp time, really, I think for the sword of Orion. I mean, Orion is getting really low in the southwest now in the evenings. So to give us a bit of an evening target, get the Orion Nebula now while you can, because literally in the next few weeks, once the Moon's come back around to be in full after that, it's gone. It's too low. So this is the chance now. So I think there's lots in the sword of Orion, it starts off with a cluster at the top NGC1981. It's one of those clusters that gets missed because people go for the Orion Nebula sort of thing. So, you know, it's a shame because I was thinking there's there's two clusters in the night sky look like this is the nerd coming out of me now, the Trekkie. So look, I think it looks like a bit of a bird of prey from the Klingons, but it's down to each everybody's own imagination. And then below that, we've got the region which includes the Running Man Nebula. Now you do need really a big telescope or photography to bring out the running man, to be fair. Then of course, below that you've got the Orion Nebula. So, you know, Messier 42, a Messier 43 and then directly below the Orion Nebula. Don't forget this Iota Orionis. It's a wonderful double, you know, just nicely split. And then there's another double. Forget the Struve designation, but there's another double it as well. So there's a lot going on in the sword of Orion. So grab it now. This is your last chance, really, and in a reasonably dark sky before it's too low and in the twilight some of the first week, quite a lot going on there.

Ezzy Pearson Yeah, certainly sounds like there's a lot going on. You've got some planets also, you know, Orion is always a good, good shout, I think as well. There's just so much going on throughout the constellation of Orion and particularly, as you said in its belt. Thank you very much for joining us today, Paul. It's a pleasure. If you want to find out even more spectacular sights that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, where we have a 16 page pullout sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for. Whether you like to look at the Moon, the planets or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars telescopes on either, our Sky guide has got you covered with the detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky from all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of the Star Diary podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, which was produced in our Bristol studio by Brittany Colley. For more of our podcast, visit our website at or head to a Acast, iTunes or Spotify.


Ezzy Pearson is the News Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.

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