The moon will reach its southernmost point for the month on March 30, 2016. Some two weeks ago, the moon reached its northernmost point on March 16; and some two weeks from now, the moon will swing to its northernmost point in April on April 12. The moon’s southern and northern extremes are sometimes called lunar standstills. That’s as opposed to the label we put on the sun’s point in our sky at its southern and northern extremes: solstices. Click here to jump down this page to more about the moon’s southernmost point, or standstill, on Wednesday, March 30.
Also on March 30, the moon is in a waning gibbous phase. On the morning of March 30, 2016, the moon looks much like the photo at the top of this post, which is by EarthSky Facebook friend Deirdre Horan. Last quarter moon will come on March 31 at 1517 UTC (10:17 a.m. CDT).
Something else to notice on the morning of March 30 … the planets and moon. Unless you live appreciably north of the Arctic Circle, this waning gibbous moon, and the planets Saturn and Mars, should be yours to behold in the March 30 predawn sky. Check out the chart below. Have you been watching these planets and the moon the past few mornings? Note Saturn and Mars to the west (right) of the moon before dawn March 30.
These two bright planets can help you to envision the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the great dome of sky and hence the sun’s apparent yearly path through the constellations of the Zodiac.
Because the solar system planets revolve around the sun on nearly the same plane that the Earth does, you will always find the planets – and Earth’s moon – on or near the ecliptic.
About the moon’s southernmost point for the month, on March 30. If you could see the stars during the daytime, you’d see the sun shining in front of the stars of the Zodiac at the December solstice point, as depicted on the above sky chart.
What is the December solstice point? You know it well. It’s the sun’s point on our sky’s dome on or near December 21. The sun reaches this point in our sky once a year, but the moon – in its monthly orbit of Earth – sweeps by the December solstice point every month.
Click here if you’d like to know the monthly lunar standstill dates for this year, or for any month in the 21st century (2001-2100).
In 2016, the planets Saturn and Mars (plus the star Antares) are not that far from the December solstice point in the sky.
Because the December solstice is the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, that means Saturn, Mars and Antares sit rather low in the predawn sky as seen from the Northern Hemisphere – much like the winter sun.
Yet, from the Southern Hemisphere, these planets and Antares shine way high in the predawn sky – much as the sun does in summer.
Bottom line: The moon reaches its southernmost point for the month on March 30, 2016. The moon is east of Mars and Saturn before dawn on March 30.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.