The month of March is upon us which means it’s officially spring. The spring equinox occurs on 20th March. This is the time when the Sun crosses the celestial equator and the length of the day and night are equal. After this the nights will be shorter than the days. In Ireland, the clocks also go forward on 27th March so this has the effect of pushing darkness out by another hour. The Sun sets at 20:00 by the end of the month which still leaves plenty of time to get out and look at the sky while still enjoying the bright evening.
The spring constellations are now becoming more prominent in the sky so now is a good time to familiarise yourself with them. The best time to look will be around the middle of the month when the Moon is new.
Sun and Moon
|Date||Sunrise (Irish Time)||Sunset (Irish Time)|
Mercury is in the morning sky early this month, but is unlikely to be seen as it rises only shortly before the Sun
Venus is in the Morning sky in March. It is very bright and rises around 1.5 hours before the Sun. Look for it low in the southeast before Sunrise. It will be the brightest object there. on the morning of the 25th March Venus will form a triangle with Mars and Saturn. On the 28th March they will be joined by the 18% lit Moon.
Mars is also visible in the morning sky, It rises about 1 hour 10 mins before Sunrise and is just below Venus but harder to see at it significantly dimmer. Look for it low in the southeast.
Not visible this month.
Visible in the morning sky just before sunrise but will be difficult to see. The best time to look is at the end of the month. Look for it low in the southeast. If you can find Venus, Mars will be to the west and Saturn will be to the east.
Stars and Constellations
The above sky chart, from heavens-above.com is for 23:00 on 15/03/2022. You can click on the chart to open a new tab and bring you to Heavens Above. On this website you can generate a custom chart for the time and date you wish. The winter constellations are fading in the west to be replaced by the spring constellations.
Visible in the west will be Orion (the hunter). Most people are somewhat familiar with this constellation and will be able to pick out Orion’s belt. You may also be able to pick out the Orion nebula just below the Orion’s belt. If you start from here and make a line using the 3 stars of the belt you can follow them down to a bright star called Sirius. Sirius is in the constellation of Cannis Major (the dog). This is actually the brightest star in the sky and is really beautiful.
If you follow the line of the belt in the other direction you will come to a red star called Aldebaran. This is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus (the bull) which has a distinctive “V” shape. Continuing along this line we come to a misty patch of stars called Pleiades or M45. This is a star forming region 1,344 lightyears away.
Above this is the constellation of Gemini (the twins), Auriga (the charioteer) and Perseus. To the northwest are Cepheus (the house), Cassiopeia (the queen), Andromeda and Pegasus (the flying horse). Andromeda is the location of the Andromeda galaxy which is the furthest object that can be seen with the naked eye. Although, you will need very dark skies to see it. Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxy are headed for a collision and will collide in an estimated 4.5 billion years.
Over in the south and east we have the spring constellations rising. You will see Leo (the lion) and the plough is now rising higher in the sky. Taking the curve of the handle of the plough and following it toward the eastern horizon will bring you to a bright red star called Aldebaran. This is the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes. Although this constellation represents a herdsman it actually looks more like a kite. It’s always nice to see this constellation appearing. It will be high in the sky in the summer and is a sign that we are heading out of winter and into spring. Finally, to the east of Bootes is the constellation of Hercules. You can identify this by its distinctive “Keystone” shape.