Venus is still very prominent in the predawn and dawn sky throughout March. In fact, dazzling Venus will remain the most brilliant starlike object in the morning sky until late October 2014, when it will shift over into the evening sky. Venus reaches its greatest western elongation – greatest angular distance from the sun on the sky’s dome – on March 22. The lovely waning moon swings close to Venus on March 26, March 27 and March 28.
Mars is the planet to watch in March 2014. It shines in front of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, rising in the east around 10:30 p.m. local Daylight Time in early March, and then at the month’s end, coming up around 8 p.m. local Daylight Time. Mars is near Spica, Virgo’s brightest star, and the proximity of the two – reddish Mars and blue-white Spica – should help you notice it. Mars reaches its highest point for the night about 4 a.m. local Daylight Time in early March and 2 a.m. local Daylight Time in late march. Watch for Mars. Its cycle of visibility in our sky is about two years long – two years between good apparitions of the Red Planet – and the time is now. Earth will pass between Mars and the sun in early April, and between now and then this planet will be rising earlier and earlier in our evening sky, growing brighter and more noticeable all the while.
Saturn is found in front of the constellation Libra the Scales. It rises in the east-southeast around 1 a.m. local Daylight Saving Time in early March, and roughly 11 p.m. local Daylight Time by the end of the month. Saturn climbs to its highest point in the sky shortly before morning dawn.
Mercury has a long apparition in the March 2014 sky. It’s in the morning sky all month long, but it’s easier to view from the Southern Hemisphere. Mercury reaches its greatest western elongation – greatest angular distance from the sun on our sky’s dome – on March 14.
Follow the links below to learn more about planets and special sky events in March 2014.
Evening planets in March 2014
Morning planets in March 2014
Jupiter most of the night, dusk till wee hours after midnight Jupiter is still the planet to watch in March 2014. It’s the brightest celestial object to light up the evening sky in March 2014, with the exception of the moon. No star outshines Jupiter.
Earth swung between the sun and Jupiter on January 5, 2014. This is Jupiter’s yearly opposition – when it’s opposite the sun – rising in the east as the sun is setting in the west, and setting in the west as the sun is rising in the east. Jupiter stays out well past midnight throughout March, setting in the west at roughly the same time that Mars reaches its highest point for the night, a few hours before dawn’s first light.
Thus, in March 2014, Jupiter is out first thing at evening dusk. Look for it, come to know it, and keep your eye on Jupiter as this brilliant world shines from dusk until the wee morning hours all month long.
Still not sure which one is Jupiter? Remember it’s the brightest star-like object in the sky for most of the night, throughout March. Or … let the moon guide you to the giant planet Jupiter on March 8, March 9 and March 10.
By the way, Jupiter is still floating by two bright stars on the sky’s dome. These stars are noticeable for being both bright and close together: Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini.
Mars: mid-to-late evening till dawn. Mars rises in the east around 11 p.m. local daylight-saving time in early March (late night, no matter where you are on the globe). By the month’s end, it’ll be coming up even earlier – sooner and sooner each evening. Mars transits – reaches its high point – around 4:00 a.m. local time in early March and around 2:00 a.m. at the month’s end. You’ll see a bright star near Mars. That star is Spica in the constellation Virgo.
Moreover, Mars brightens all the while. That’s because Earth is now coming up behind Mars in the race of the planets around the sun, and the distance between our two worlds is decreasing. We’ll pass between Mars and the sun in early April 2014. At that time, Mars will shine at its brightest best for the year, and moreover, Mars will light up Earth’s night sky all night long!
Keep in mind that Jupiter shines many times more brilliantly than Mars does. In the wee hours before dawn, as Jupiter sits low in the west, look for Mars to shine at or near its highest point in the sky.
Use the moon to find Mars and Spica on the nights of March 17-18 and March 18-19. And when there is no moon to guide you, try using the Big Dipper to arc to Arcturus, spike Spica – and in 2014, to locate Mars.
Venus in the predawn/dawn sky all month. Venus beams in the eastern predawn and dawn sky throughout March. At mid-northern latitudes, it rises about two and one-half hours before sunrise in early March and about two hours before sunup by the month’s end. Venus will continue to shine as the “morning star” until late September or early October 2014.
You need a telescope to observe the phases of Venus. Whenever you see Venus in the morning sky, it is always moving away from Earth and its phase is continually waxing (getting broader). This month, Venus’ disk starts out about 37% illuminated in sunshine and ends the month around 54% illuminated. Venus’ illuminated portion covered the greatest square area of sky on February 15, when its disk is 26% illuminated. Believe it or not, Venus shines at or near its brightest in the morning (or evening) sky when its disk is about one-quarter lit up in sunshine. Nonetheless, Venus will remain the brightest star-like object in the morning sky for months to come!
Saturn midnight till dawn. At mid-northern latitudes, Saturn rises around midnight in early March and mid-evening by late March. This golden-colored world shines in front of the constellation Libra the Scales.
Saturn is rising earlier day by day, and will easily appear in the evening sky before your bedtime in April 2014. Saturn will be out all night long and at its best in May 2014.
Binoculars won’t reveal Saturn’s gorgeous rings, but a small telescope will. This month, Saturn climbs fairly high in the predawn sky and should be a fine telescopic object. Saturn’s rings are inclined by more than 22o from edge-on in March 2014, showing us their north face. Several years from now, the rings will open most widely in October 2017, displaying a maximum inclination of 27o. As with so much in space (and on Earth), the appearance of Saturn’s rings from Earth is cyclical. In the year 2025, the rings will appear edge-on as seen from Earth. After that, we’ll begin to see the south side of Saturn’s rings, to increase to a maximum inclination of 27o by May 2032.
Mercury passed out of the evening sky and into the morning sky on February 15. Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, reaches its greatest western (morning elongation from its sun on March 14, at a whopping 28o west of the sun. Whereas this will be a super-great apparition of Mercury in the morning sky for the Southern Hemisphere, it’ll be a poor one for the Northern Hemisphere. Try using the slender waning crescent moon to locate Mercury below Venus in the east before sunrise on March 28 and March 29.
What do we mean by visible planet? By visible planet, we mean any solar system planet that is easily visible without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are visible in our sky because their disks reflect sunlight, and these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars. They tend to be bright! You can spot them, and come to know them as faithful friends, if you try.
Bottom line: In March 2014, only one of the five visible planets – Jupiter – will be visible first thing at nightfall. However, the planets Mars and Saturn are rising earlier in the evening sky daily. Mars will shine all night long in April 2014 whereas Saturn will shine all night long in May 2014. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, look for Mercury to put on its finest morning appearance for the year all month long!