Spring starts in the northern hemisphere at 9:57 a.m., PDT, when the sun’s center crosses the celestial equator from south to north. Day and night are of nearly equal length over the whole earth. The event is known in astronomy as the vernal equinox. Sunrise and sunset also occur due east and west, respectively. Spring will end with the summer solstice on June 21st.
Jupiter, in Gemini the Twins, is the brightest evening planet. You can find it high in the southeast during evening twilight, and it can be seen until it sets in the west-northwest well after midnight. Binoculars are enough to see the disk of Jupiter and its four largest moons. Most astronomical telescopes will reveal Jupiter’s cloud features.
Orange planet Mars, in Virgo the Maiden, becomes visible in the east-southeast after darkness falls. It is highest in the south at about 3 a.m. An astronomical telescope at high magnification should show the small disk of the planet and the dark markings on the deserts of Mars. Mars will be closest to us next month.
Golden Saturn is in Libra the scales and rises in the east-southeast at about 11:30 p.m. and is highest in the south at 4:30 a.m. The glorious ring system is easy to see through most telescopes, as are several of Saturn’s moons. Saturn is located below and to the left of Mars.
Venus, the brightest planet, is eye catching in the east-southeast about two hours before sunrise. The innermost planet, Mercury, can be seen close to the horizon and to the lower left of Venus at 30 minutes before sunrise until the 26th.
The moon is new on the first, and reaches first-quarter phase on the 8th. The next night, in waxing gibbous phase, it appears near Jupiter. Full moon on the morning of the 16th is called the “worm moon.” In waning gibbous phase, the moon appears near Mars on the 18th, and Saturn on the 20th and 21st. Last quarter is on the 23rd, and in crescent phase the moon passes Venus on the 27th. A second new moon occurs on March 30th.
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