March 2018

Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

March is mostly uneventful for beginner’s stargazing, but take advantage of the month-long line up of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter in the mornings in the East, with the Moon stopping by from the 7th to the 13th.  Should make for some good pictures.


Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Mercury, Venus (W)
  • Throughout the night – Jupiter (EàS)
  • Morning – Saturn, Mars, Jupiter (S)


  • Best to look during the 3rd week of March for Mercury, as it is the highest in the sky at this time, about 15˚ above the horizon, and right in the vicinity of Venus in the West right after sunset.


  • Venus changes from about 10˚ to 15˚above the Sun this month. Look West after sunset and find the brightest source of light in that direction, only about a fist-width above the horizon.


  • Rises by 2:30am. Look South around sunrise and find the red object between Jupiter and Saturn, getting closer to Saturn throughout the month, about 25˚ above the southern horizon.


  • Rises around 4:15am at the beginning of the month and 1:45am at the end. Look about 20˚ above the SSE horizon, to the left and down from Mars and at the top of Sagittarius.


  • Rises around midnight in early March, 10pm in late March, in the ESE. Reaches about 30˚ above the S horizon at sunrise, hanging out right in the middle of Libra.




Full Moon – 2nd (Visible all night)


Last Quarter Moon – 9th (Visible from midnight into the morning)


6th – 12thMorning Close Encounter Week – Moon, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn – The second month with the Moon making its way through the planets. All week, if you get up after 3:00am, you’ll see all three planets, with the Moon traveling through day to day. Jupiter will consistently be the brightest planet about 30˚ up in the South, with Mars about 30˚ down and to the left, and Saturn about 15˚ down and to the left of that.

       6th – The Waning Gibbous Moon lines up to the right of the planets

7th – The Moon will be about 3˚ above Jupiter

       8th – The Moon will be almost right in the middle between Jupiter and Mars

       9th – A Third Quarter Moon will be about 8˚ up and to the right of Mars

       10th – A Waning Crescent Moon will be almost right in the middle between Mars and Saturn

       11th – A beautiful crescent Moon will be just 4˚ to the left of Saturn

       12th – A very thin crescent Moon will form a nice line of objects, with the Moon visible as early as 4am, with Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter finishing the lineup up and to the right.


11th – Daylight Savings Time Begins at 2am


New Moon – 17th (darkest skies)  


18th - Close Encounter – If you can get a stellar view of the western horizon, and probably some binoculars, you might catch a VERY thin crescent Moon, Venus, and Mercury lining up from left to right in the sunset sky before they set around 7:05pm.


20th - Spring Equinox - Astronomically the first day of Spring, even though meteorologically Spring starts in the beginning of March.  Here’s some more info.


First Quarter Moon – 24th (Visible until midnight)


Full Moon – 31st (Visible all night)




Use a sky map from to visually help you out.

If you’re looking straight up above you…

  • After Sunset (sunset is around 6:30-7:30pm) – Auriga (Taurus is right nearby), Gemini
  • Between Sunset and Midnight – Cancer, Gemini, Lynx, and Leo later in the month
  • Midnight – Leo, Leo Minor, Ursa Major’s legs
  • Early Morning – Corona Borealis, Hercules, Boötes (you can also find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes. Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”)



Winter: Orion is easy to spot as he is high in the south as the Sun sets.  You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations.

  • Taurus, Pleiades: Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the East after sunset.  If you draw a line from the left (bottom) star to the right (top) star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaron in Taurus (the V).  Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.
  • Canis Major: Draw a line from the right (top) star in Orion’s belt to the left (bottom) star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.
  • Gemini, Auriga: Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga.  The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky.  Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga).  It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.

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