All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2017.
Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire. All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.
Solar System quick summary
For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.
Comet 2P/Encke drops into the evening twilight in the first week. Venus also descends rapidly just as Mercury rushes up into the evening twilight mid month. Mars, Uranus, Vesta and faint Ceres can be found in the evenings whilst Jupiter is rising by 9pm mid month so also easier to view. Saturn lies in the morning sky viewable for a few hours before dawn but Neptune is too close to the Sun to view. The moon occults Hyadum I on the 4th and Porrima (for some areas) on the 14th.
Although Mars is still viewable in the evening sky, it is the two innermost planets that catch our attention this month. Mercury rushes up into the evening twilight as Venus rushes down past it and becomes lost in the solar glare. The view above begins on March 15th and the positions of the planets are set for ¾ of an hour after sunset. Uranus is shown as it too descends into the twilight which will make it a difficult object as it is much fainter, but Mercury will help on the 26th. Looking out for Mercury begins on March 15th quite low over in the West.
Brilliant Venus lies above right of it to help guide the way but as can be seen with each passing day it quickly drops towards the horizon whilst Mercury climbs higher. Venus will naturally be the brighter of the two (mag -
A few days later on the 26th use Mercury to try for a final view of Uranus (mag 5.9) when they are at their closest on that date at just over 2°. Three days later a slim crescent Moon lies to the lower left of Mercury as Uranus slides deep into the twilight and lost to view. Mercury will remain viewable, but fading, into the first couple of weeks of April and it's best evening apparition in 2017.
As we're dealing with the end of the month then look out for Mars as it continues to just keep ahead of the evening twilight but is losing ground. However it is still moving prograde against the backdrop of stars and is catching up with dwarf planet Ceres. The crescent moon forms a nice triangle with them both on March 30th in evening twilight. Ceres will be close to mag 9 and faint whilst the moon will be unmistakable and Mars will also be bright at mag 1.5 and reddish in colour. Note that Ceres is shown brighter than it really is compared with nearby stars. Ceres is dealt with in more detail on the asteroids and dwarves page from the link at top.
The crescent moon lies near the Hyades star cluster on March 4th and occults Hyadum I, Gamma Tauri. For that event see the occultation page but the crescent moon is again in this vicinity on March 31st shown at left. It forms a wide triangle with the star cluster M45 and the Hyades, including Aldebaran and it is always a pleasing sight.
On the 14th the gibbous moon lies close to Porrima, Gamma Virginis, and, for some southern parts, it occults the star. The inset moon for the morning of the 14th on the chart at right shows Porrima just above the lunar limb but not occulted from the authors location in Lincolnshire. Details of the occultation are also on the ocultations page link above. The wide field view shown at right shows that the next morning, the 15th, the moon forms a lovely triangle with Jupiter and Spica. Indeed they rise around 20:30 GMT the previous evening with the moon forming a slightly shallower triangle with them.
Meanwhile, minor planet Vesta remains a good binocular target to chase down. During February it was retrograding, passing above Kappa Geminorum on the 3rd then mid month passing under Upsilon Geminorum. It reaches a stationary point on March 7th then returns to normal (prograde) motion and moves past, below and closer to Upsilon again from March 26th to 28th. It fades from mag 6.6 to mag 7.6 during this time but still in range of a binocular.
Also look out for the following:
Mar 1st Crescent Moon lies below left of Mars and Uranus this evening
Mar 6th Moon lies to the right of Alhena, Gamma Geminorum
Mar 7th Moon lies near to Lambda Geminorum
Mar 10th Moon close to and south of Regulus
Mar 14th Moon rises near to Jupiter and Spica late evening
Mar 17th Moon lies between Alpha and Beta Librae
Mar 18th Moon lies above Beta Scorpii this morning
Mar 19th Moon lies to the north of Antares
Mar 20th Last Quarter Moon lies above right of Saturn
Mar 23rd Crescent Moon lies below Alpha and Beta Capricorni
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2017 AD
The Spring or Vernal Equinox occurs on March 20th at 10:29 GMT. Spring officially begins in the N. Hemisphere / Autumn begins in the S. Hemisphere.
British Summer Time, also known as Daylight Saving Time, begins at 1 am on Sunday March 26th when the clocks are put forward one hour.
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