Star Diary Podcast: What’s in the night sky, March 2022

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

BBC Sky at Night Magazine Star Diary podcast.
Published: February 28, 2022 at 5:25 pm

What's coming up in the night sky in the month of March 2022.



Ezzy Greetings, listeners, and welcome to Radio Astronomy guide to the best things to see in the night sky in March 2022. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's news editor, and I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Money.

Paul Hello.

Ezzy Hello, Paul. It's great to hear from you again. And you're going to tell us all of the best things that there are to catch in the night sky this month. So what are your recommendations for March 2022?

Paul Well, for once, we don't have to worry about the morning sky for a while because we've got a few things happening in the evening, you know, because you know, we like the evenings. There are a lot more convenient or observing. So let's start off. We always like a bit of a challenge is don't we sort of thing getting a thin crescent moon? This isn't the thinnest you can get, but a 3rd March it is well worth looking about 20 to 30 minutes after sunset towards, say, the West Southwest. Make sure the sun's set before it. The Moon will only be 1.2 Days old. So it's something like twenty four point something hours old as such. So, yeah, so it's very, very thin, and it's always nice to watch these ethereal because it'll be in a bright twilight. So it'll be always nice to watch out and look for something like that in a catch. Catch your earliest glimpse of the Moon, if you can in the evening sky. So the twilight will be bright, but it's worth checking out. But if you're going to use binoculars, we always have to say make sure the Sun has set, you know, we don't want any eyes burned out or anything like that. Do we sort of, you know, any dangerous? So 20 to 30 minutes after sunset should actually work, but don't leave it too late, because the Moon will be quickly... it's a thin crescent. So it's relatively close to the glare of the Sun, so it will set quickly as well. So don't leave it an hour, literally, and it'll be gone. So they will almost blink and it's gone in astronomical terms, you could say. So that's 3rd March now. As usual, a lot of the events always involve the Moon. It passes so many planets, stars, sometimes, occults, as we'll see a bit later on. So when we get to 6-7 March, we're looking at sort of like a guide to getting the planet Uranus because Uranus is in Aries at the moment. But it's also as you look at it, in the sky above the head of Cetus. So, you know, it's a nice, recognisable patch of sky in actual fact, so you've got Aries off to the right and you've got Cetus off the lower left. Now the Moon joins them and it's actually below Uranus on the 6th. It's still a nice crescent. So well worth looking at with binoculars anyway, and a small telescope and see what craters you can pick out on that. Mare Chrisium is always pretty good actually on that limb. But what we do is on the 6th to the lower right of Uranus sort of thing. It's actually quite close to the star xi 1.There are two stars called Xi. They love these, don't they want they call it xi 1. Then something else. But no Xi 1 and Xi 2. Well, Xi 1 is actually the one just below the moon on the 6th. So you got that... you'll be able to see this little tiny star below the Moon as well. So. So ironically, the Moon will be an Aries. You know, if you go by the International Astronomical Union borders is sort of thing, you know, the Moon will actually be an Aries, but it's just the above Xi 1 in Cetii. So there we are.

Ezzy Right on the border.

Paul It's very close. In actual fact, very close to the border itself. I mean, the borders, I mean, they are what we've created in the sky, just like the constellations, really, aren't they? But, you know, but it just looks like it will be quite close to this stars sort of thing. But it is ironic that it's next. It's actually an Aries itself.

Ezzy Yes. So just for any of our listeners at home who don't know, there's the constellations that most astronomers will know them as, as you can see the star patterns or the night sky. But there's also just areas of sky that are also called the constellations. Because, you know, astronomers like to be confusing, which are sort of more kind of scientific area that are designated as belonging to that constellation. And so that's what's going on there.

Paul So on the 7th and the moon is the other side of Uranus, so there it swaps it over, it's nicely even actually this time sort of thing, but it's on the lower right on the 6th sort of thing, you know, on the 7th, it's the other side of the planet itself. It's heading towards Taurus, in actual fact. But on the actual 7th, it sort of forms a triangle of Uranus and the Star Mu Seti. So again, Mu is actually quite prominent. It's nice to find a prominent star. The stars of Ceti, are actually bright the planet itself. Although Uranus is naked eye technically, but it does depend on, you know, the clarity of Sky's dark skies. No light pollution, you name it, you've got to have pristine skies. It really does help. I'm very glad I saw I'd have to say as well, you are.

Ezzy "If you are in the best location with the best eyesight and the best weather, you might see it" kind of naked eye.

Paul Exactly. I mean, since I started wearing glasses, I'm afraid I have not spotted it at all, but I was lucky enough to see it a few times when it but when it's in a crowded area and I remember when it was down towards Sagittarius, oh, that was virtually impossible. You had to use binoculars then to separate it from all the stars. So at least it's in an area of sky where there aren't as many stars now, so it's easier to actually locate, which is the odd... they call the odd one out. So what planet is wandering star? Isn't it sort of thing because discovered by William Herschel. So, you know, a long time ago, not quite in a galaxy far away. So we move on to the next couple of nights, 8-9 March, and I always like it. When the Moon is a crescent phase and it's in Taurus and on the 8th, it's actually to the lower jaw, slightly lower left of the Pleiades. The Seven Sisters star cluster the Messier 45, so that'll be quite a prominent cluster to the naked eye. So there'll be the crescent moon. It'll be getting thicker now, so it's a lot thicker crescent. And as it moves through Taurus the next evening on the 9th and this is the evening we're looking at about seven o'clock. So, you know, once Twilight's over, so there's more stars actually just spots. On the 9th, we actually sit next to T Tauri. So there we are. And that's a bit of a mouthful to say T Tauri. It's the TT star, you might say. So now if you wait long enough, it looks as if T Tauri is actually going to be occulted, but it doesn't. It misses one of those tantalisingly close. But through the night, it actually glides past the moon glides past T Tauri, but it's always nice way of identifying certain stars and when the Moon is actually close to it. If you're not familiar with that particular constellation now, it carries on because on the actual tenth, we actually find it the Moon as it's not quite half phase, but it will lie between the horns of the bull sort of thing. In the top horn is Beta Tauri Elnath and then the lower horn, the Southern Horn is Zeta Tauri. Now, for those low like telescopes and not use them looking around, they will know that Nia Zeta is actually M1, The Crab Nebula. So you've got a Solar System object, you've got stars and you've got a supernova remnant as well to hunt out if you want, because the moonlight will be bright, but you might just see it actually with a small telescope. So that's on thetenth itself. So by then, that will be it will actually be first quarter east, very close to first quarter within a few hours, actually of first quarter itself. So well worth looking at while the Moon will look half to the naked eye as such. OK, moving on then. Okay. I had to pick some morning targets. Well, we've got some really good ones in the morning. We're looking at 12 and 11 March and we're looking for Venus with Mars. Now, Venus is very bright. I mean... It's been the morning star at the moment, so very easy to see and Mars's faint line below it. But they almost form a line up with Alpha and betaCapricorn II, and those are both double stars and the quite visible in binoculars. So well worth having a look with binoculars as such at these two stars. So you've got two planets and two double stars almost lined up. So in the sky for us, it's almost like the same. Please look at us. Look, look, look where we are lining up for you. So there we are. So that alpha beta, very easy stars. They are naked only stars and keen eyed people sometimes said they can see alpha split - I must admit I struggle. I struggle myself sort of thing, but, you know, put binoculars on it and it'll actually be quite obvious you want be looking around the southeast horizon. They are only just above the southeast horizon, about 5:30am and again before the sun rises. Don't wait too long before the sun rise, but you should. If you've got a nice, clear horizon, you shouldn't really be able to mistake Venus sort of thing. It'll be the brightest thing in the sky other than the actual sun. So, there we are now. As it happens just a few hours earlier on the 12th. If you look around 3:30 in the morning over towards the other horizon, northwest, you actually see the Moon. Yes, the Moon still there. It'll be past first quarter phase now, but a lot thicker, but it'll be next to Epsilon Geminorum. So again, the Moon guiding one of the star, it looks as if it could occult, but it will actually be missing it as well. So it's 3:30 a.m. on the 12th, so you need to be looking towards the northwest horizon again for these because they're seting. Catch them quick before they've gone, because once the set course you can't see em. Can't look through the Earth, can you find you would find a fantastic news report, and I'm sure you, as a news editor, will know about the neutrino view of the Sun taken through the Earth. I thought it was an April fool when I first saw that, but that was quite something. But we visually can't do it, so don't try. So here we are. It's 3:30 a.m. on the 12th looking for Epsilon Geminorum and the Moon quite close to each other. Now the moon, we go back around to the evening sky now because, oddly enough, later that evening on the 12th, we actually have the moon forming a nice triangle with two bright stars that have very obvious Castor and Pollux there. Gemini, the twins. So there we are. And once the twilight finishes, you'll see a few more of the stars actually pop out as well. But I always like these shapes. These they attract the eye. You know, you look at the moon, you suddenly realise the two dots either side of the actual head of the Moon as well.

Ezzy There's a reason why humanity has so many pictures up in the night sky. Because every time.... Our eyes just automatically see all of these shapes and things up there. It's just part of what it is to be human.

Paul We like making patterns, don't we? And that is why we got the constellations. There's no reason to join the stars in the dots that we see, and different cultures have joined the dots in different ways. So, you know, so yeah, we just we just like making patterns in the sky. Don't we sort of think we astronomers, we do it on smaller and smaller scale as well? I know there's a cluster, I think NGC 2169 in Orion. It looks like the number 37. you half expect the number thirty seven balls to come through, but it does look like 37. So we love things like that sort of thing. You know, some of them even seen a Klingon Bird of prey, and that's another cluster in Orion as well. So there are plenty of star shapes there. I mean, you could go out and join the dots to your heart's content on a completely different scales. I'll bet if you went onto the Hubble images, you could do the same thing. Absolutely. OK, so we're sticking with the Moon and the Moon on the 15th and 16th moves into Leo. So it's particularly it gets quite close to Eta Leonis, and so he doesn't occult it. But we are getting towards a fuller phase, so it's not quite full, but he's getting that way. And so we're talking about the evening of March 15th into the morning of 16th, so the Moon will creep ever closer to Eta, but it doesn't actually occult it again. So we're getting a few that don't actually occult but look as if they could do. But there are a nice conjunction again, something very, very close. And in the early hours of the 16th, you're lookingabout 2:30 in the in the morning, the Moon will be directly below Eta on a line with the bright star Regulus. Regulus is the heart of Leo the Lion. So it'll be closer to Eta, but it'll be on a direct line with Regulus as well. So I would like to look out for these line ups. So again, we're not just the triangles, etc. We like the line ups as well when these stars and planets and moons actually align. We move on because obviously it's continuing. The Moon takes 28 days roughly to go around this sort of thing, so it is going to pass through most of the main constellations that are visible in the night sky. So not surprisingly, the 18th and 19th the full moon occurs on the 18th and he actually lines up near Parma. But you have to wait because as it goes through the constellation into the night, into the early hours of the morning of the 19th, finally, we don't get a near miss. We actually get an occultation this time of the star Porrimer. The thing about this, though, is that it is in the early morning we want to be looking at about 4:30 in the morning. So, yes, set your alarm clocks. It's an early morning job, I'm afraid, but that's the way it goes. Sometimes, sometimes here in the evening, it always seems that the best ones are always in the early hours of the morning, I have to say. But again, you'll want to be looking out sort of thing around about from 4:30 itself because the Moon will be getting closer and closer to Porrimer. So follow it, you know, if you got webcams and telescope, follow it and watch. Watch she actually disappeared behind that limb in the Moon, and they so I mean if it is a star, abrupt but it might just look as if it dims because Porrimer is a tight double star. Now it's opened up over the last few years, so it's actually become easier for us amateurs to actually split it. But visually, to the naked eye, it may slightly dim before it winks out completely. And that's the sign. That's how they found quite a few double stars from occultations by the Moon they're expecting the light to just vanish just like that. And it didn't. It went down in two steps, so it was showing it was a sign it was actually double star. Now that's the morning of the 19th and the evening of the 19th. So late evening, admittedly, we then find the Moon passed the full but it's above the star Spica - Spika, Spica depends on how you want to pronounce it sort of thing - but this is alpha virgin is itself. The main star, the brightest star actually of Virgo. So there we are. OK, now if you do like mornings, I like it when the Moon is in a particularly bright constellation where there's lots of stars close by so that you've got a field of stars around it. And this occurs on March the 23rd. But again, you have to be looking fairly early. We're looking at two o'clock in the morning, so you actually want to be looking around about the southeast. A lot of these events occur when it's especially in this area, the sky. We were dealing with Scorpius, and I love that Constellation sort of things. It I mean, that shell of Scorpius sort of thing has got lots and lots of stars in it sort of thing. So well worth having a look at. So about two and look to the southeast for Scorpius. We've got the bright red orange star Antares to the lower left of the Moon. Directly above the moon is beta or Graphus and also a nice double star, which is omega scorpii. Now major is wide enough. You should be able to see it with the naked eye binoculars absolutely clear cut. You can't mistake that it's a double star and they will be directly above the actual moon itself. So, Antares is to the lower left is reddish star, etc. But well worth looking at that because I like these little patterns as such. Now we go back to the morning sky and we're back to Venus now. Venus is having a really good time at the moment in the morning sky, so we we find it near Mars, but gradually they are joined by something else. And this is where we get Saturn. Saturn is back. You know, we've gone through solar conjunction. We lost Saturn a couple of months. Just like at the moment, we've lost Jupiter. Jupiter is too close to the glare of the actual sun. But now we've got Saturn beginning to creep out and it forms this triangle with Venus and Mars as well. Again, we're back to the triangles. You know, most of it was almost like we were obsessed with triangles, but that's how we look at the sky. We look at all these patterns. So we look in about five am. So I mean, if we found Venus a few weeks, a couple of weeks earlier, something we mentioned it first then and Venus and Mars, the slowly separating we got Saturn there form this triangle so well worth looking now, but it gets a little bit better because March 28th - 29th Venus is getting closer to Saturn. Such an emerging out but around about the 28th. We find the crescent moon, really slim. This is a difficult one. This is difficult because the Moon is below them, so it's very low. So you will see Venus, Saturn and Mars first. And then if you're patient in the southeast, watch gradually and below Mars, you'll start to see the moon rise. Now the sky'll be getting brighter and you've got to be careful. You're looking at about six a.m. because by the time we get to the 28th 29th, the clocks will have changed. So, oh, don't want to miss out on so much. Ohh summertime. All day is sort of thing, you know, but never mind. But it'll be a gorgeous grouping of these objects. And then to finish off round about 31st look again. The Moon will be out of the way, but by then we'll have this nice shallow curve, a sort of a triangle with Saturn playing piggie in the middle now Venus, the left and Mars directly to the right. And all this is taking place against the backdrop of Capricornus, although with that bright twilight sky, you may not see all the stars of Capricornus because of the light twilight. So there we also think that's the main events for March. There's quite a lot going on, some in the evening, some in the morning, and we've got at least one occultation as well.

Ezzy So to go back over the the highlights from this month, starting on the 3rd of March, you have the very thin crescent moon coming low on the evening twilight about 20 to 30 minutes after sunset. Then, on the 6th of the Moon, will be passing through the constellation of Aries and also close by to the planet Uranus. Then, on the 8th and the 9th, the Moon passes through Taurus and near the Pleiades cluster, or M45. Then on the 11th and the 12th, it will pass by the Stars Alpha and Beta Capricorni, both of which are double stars. And so you might be able to resolve those with a pair of binoculars. Then moving on to the evening of the 15th morning of the 16th, you'll see the moon creep ever closer to Italy onus. Unfortunately, it won't quite occult it, but you'll get to see a nice near miss. If you want to see an occultation, you'll have to wait until the 18th when the Moon gets near to Porrima and eventually occults it. Careful watch out to the star. You might see it just dimmed just before it goes under as it is a double star. Then later that morning, around about 5:00 a.m. when the twilight is just about getting too bright, you might be able to see the planet Venus forming a triangle with Mars to its right and Saturn to its lower left. Then on the 28th and the 29th, Venus, Mars and Saturn will all be joined by the very slim crescent moon just below Mars. But be careful about that one because you'll need to be looking around 6:00 a.m. You'll need to be looking at six a.m. summertime as the clocks will have changed. So hopefully there's something there that will have piqued your interest and you'll be able to get to see something to observe this month. Thank you very much, Paul, for taking the time to talk to us about all the things to see in March.

Paul A pleasure.


Ezzy If you want to find out about even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky this month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky Night magazine, where we have a 16 page pull out sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking out for in March 2022. Whether you like to look at the Moon, the planets or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or neither our Sky Guide has got you covered with detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky from all of us here at BBC Sky Night Magazine. Goodbye.


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.


Sponsored content