Monthly Skywatchers' Page

For London and the UK

Sun And Nine Planets
The Sun and eight major planets (plus KBO Pluto) to scale. Earth is third planet from the left.


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Introduction

The location of the stars and constellations can be learnt throughout a single year from books, mobile phone applications or planetarium software. Each month of the year, the same stars are visible from a given location. Different stars and constellations are visible as the year progresses. For example, in London, the constellation of Orion is always visible in the evenings of winter months of January and February. Scorpius is visible in the summer months of June and July around midnight.

The planets resemble stars except that, generally, they do not twinkle. Unlike the stars whose patterns are fixed, planets wander through the sky changing their positions amongst the starry background. This means that their periods of visibility change as the relative position of the Earth, Sun and planet vary. In one year Mars may be visible in August at midnight. In another year it may be behind the Sun and invisible from Earth during August.

This page gives the details of visibility for the five naked eye planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It also gives information about comets, meteor showers and non-regular phenomena like eclipses, transits and occultations.

The Observers' Glossary explains the terms used. Alternatively run the mouse cursor over terms in maroon.


The descriptions below are for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, especially London and the United Kingdom.
The planetary information is valid for any location at the same or similar Latitude (51.5°N).
Note that a degree in the sky is twice the apparent diameter of the Moon.

All times on this page are London (UK) times. This is normally GMT (Greenwich Mean Time also known as Universal Time).
In the United Kingdom, the clocks go forward by one hour for British Summer Time (BST) between mid March and late October.
A 24 hour clock is used so that 7pm is written 19:00.


March 2017

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury is in superior conjunction on 7th. After that date the planet moves rapidly into the evening sky becoming visible after sunset from about the middle of the month.

By the end of March the planet will be setting in the West more than an hour and a half after sunset.

This will be the best evening appearance of Mercury for the year.

On 19th and 20th the silvery coloured planet will be as bright as Sirius (the brightest star) and can be seen to the left of the more brilliant Venus at around 6:45pm.

The planet fades during the month. On 29th, the thin crescent Moon will be spotted to the left of Mercury.

Mercury and the Moon
Looking West at 7pm on 29th.
Mercury can be seen to the right of the thin crescent Moon.
The stars of Aries are above.

Venus

Venus

Venus is a brilliant object visible in the West after sunset setting three hours after the Sun at the beginning of March.

On 1st the crescent Moon will be visible to the left of Venus and below the fainter Mars.

The planet then rapidly moves towards the horizon over the next three weeks, passing Mercury on its way out from the Sun on 19th and 20th.

A few days later the planet becomes lost in the twilight passing through inferior conjunction on 25th.

The Moon, Venus and Mars
Looking West at 6:30pm on 1st.
The brilliant Venus can be seen to the right of the crescent Moon. The fainter Mars is above.
The stars to the right are the square of Pegasus. Above are the stars of Aries.

Mars

Mars

Mars is an evening object visible in the West among the stars of Pisces setting after 9:45pm throughout the month.

The planet continues to move Northwards and its motion against the background stars is apparent from night to night. Mars passes into Aries on 8th.

The Moon will be seen below Mars on 1st and again on 30th.

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter rises around 9pm at the beginning of March. By the end of the month, the planet will be rising before 7:30pm, remaining visible for the rest of the night.

Jupiter is among the stars of Virgo. The planet is above that constellation's brightest star, Spica. Jupiter brightens slightly during the month as it approaches its closest to the Earth next month.

Jupiter is below the Moon on 14th.

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn is a morning object rising around 3am at the beginning of the month. By the end of March the planet will be rising before 1:30. The planet is well South of the equator this year and does not rise very high.

Saturn is among the stars of Ophiuchus. Look for the planet below the crescent Moon on 20th.

Through a telescope the magnificent rings are easy to see and this year they are at an open angle. If you have access to a telescope, use the Moon to locate Saturn and look at it through a telescope on a clear night. The sight of the rings is one of the best views in the sky. During 2017, we are looking down onto the planet's North Pole so the rings appear to be wide open. The rings are open wide every fifteen years.

Sun

The Sun

The Clocks go FORWARD (to British Summer Time) at 2am on Sunday 26th.

The Sun continues moving Northwards causing the days to get longer. At the beginning of March the day is 10 hours 55 minutes long. By the end of the month this has increased to 12 hours 54 minutes, an increase of two hours.

At 10:29 (London time) on 20 March, the Sun crosses the Equator on its northward journey. This is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

The word Equinox comes from two Latin words meaning equal night. This is only one of two days in the year that the length of day and night are equal all over the world and the Sun rises and sets due East and West respectively. In fact, because the Sun takes a couple of minutes to rise or set and because of atmospheric refraction, the length of the day is always longer than expected. The twelve hour day actually occurs on the 18th.

On the Spring Equinox, spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere; the Sun is directly overhead at Noon on the equator. On the North Pole, the Sun rises after six months of night; at the South Pole the Sun sets after six months of daylight.

In the UK, the clocks go FORWARD by one hour on the night of 25th - 26th. This causes the times of sunrise, midday and sunset to move forward by an hour. At the beginning of March, the Sun will set at 17:41. On the 25th sunset is at 18:22. The following day after the clocks have moved forward, sunset is at 19:23.

The time of midday slowly drifts back during March by 8 minutes from 12:12 to 13:04 (clocks forward).

The Sun begins the month in Aquarius and enters Pisces on 11th. Note that the Zodiac dates do not tie in with astrology as astrologers are using dates from two thousand years ago.

Date Sunrise Midday Sunset Length of Day Sun's Noon Altitude Notes
01-Mar
06:45
12:12
17:41
10h 55m
31.1°
Moon close to Venus - Moon close to Mars
02-Mar
06:43
12:12
17:42
10h 59m
31.5°
 
03-Mar
06:41
12:12
17:44
11h 03m
31.9°
 
04-Mar
06:38
12:12
17:46
11h 07m
32.3°
 
05-Mar
06:36
12:11
17:48
11h 11m
32.7°
Evening Half Moon
06-Mar
06:34
12:11
17:49
11h 15m
33.1°
 
07-Mar
06:32
12:11
17:51
11h 19m
33.5°
 
08-Mar
06:30
12:11
17:53
11h 23m
33.8°
 
09-Mar
06:27
12:10
17:55
11h 27m
34.2°
 
10-Mar
06:25
12:10
17:56
11h 31m
34.6°
 
11-Mar
06:23
12:10
17:58
11h 35m
35.0°
Sun "enters" Pisces
12-Mar
06:21
12:10
18:00
11h 39m
35.4°
Full Moon at 14:54
13-Mar
06:18
12:09
18:01
11h 43m
35.8°
 
14-Mar
06:16
12:09
18:03
11h 46m
36.2°
Moon close to Jupiter
15-Mar
06:14
12:09
18:05
11h 50m
36.6°
 
16-Mar
06:12
12:09
18:07
11h 54m
37.0°
 
17-Mar
06:09
12:08
18:08
11h 58m
37.4°
 
18-Mar
06:07
12:08
18:10
12h 02m
37.8°
 
19-Mar
06:05
12:08
18:12
12h 06m
38.2°
Venus close to Mercury
20-Mar
06:03
12:07
18:13
12h 10m
38.6°
Morning Half Moon
Venus close to Mercury
Moon close to Saturn
Spring Equinox at 10:29
21-Mar
06:00
12:07
18:15
12h 14m
39.0°
 
22-Mar
05:58
12:07
18:17
12h 18m
39.3°
 
23-Mar
05:56
12:06
18:18
12h 22m
39.7°
 
24-Mar
05:53
12:06
18:20
12h 26m
40.1°
 
25-Mar
05:51
12:06
18:22
12h 30m
40.5°
 
Clocks go FORWARD at 2am
26-Mar
06:49
13:06
19:23
12h 34m
40.9°
 
27-Mar
06:47
13:05
19:25
12h 38m
41.3°
 
28-Mar
06:44
13:05
19:27
12h 42m
41.7°
New Moon at 02:57
29-Mar
06:42
13:05
19:28
12h 46m
42.1°
Moon close to Mercury
30-Mar
06:40
13:04
19:30
12h 50m
42.5°
Moon close to Mars
31-Mar
06:37
13:04
19:32
12h 54m
42.9°
 

Moon

The Moon

The Moon will be close to Venus on 1st.

The Moon will be close to Mars on 1st.

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 14th.

The Moon will be close to Saturn on 20th.

The Moon will be close to Mercury on 29th.

The Moon will be close to Mars on 30th.


It is easy to depend on astronomy or CMMS software to perform daily computational activities and to keep track of data. Astronomy enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of software options, while facility managers may have fewer options if they require CMMS software for their business.


Next Month

Mercury and Mars in the evening. Saturn in the morning. Jupiter at oposition.


All times on this page are London (UK) times.

Sources: Astronomy Now magazine, Cybersky, Starry Night Pro, USA Naval Observatory and UK Nautical Almanac Office.

© 2017 KryssTal
All sky images by Starry Night Pro Plus 6
Eclipse predictions (maps) courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC


Books From Amazon.co.uk


Observers' Glossary

An explanation of the terms used by sky observers. Includes descriptions of how the objects of the solar system behave in the sky as seen from Earth (especially the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes).


KryssTal Related Pages

Tables and data about the Sun, Earth, Moon, planets, asteroids and comets. All terms used are explained.

An account of how various properties of stars can be measured by studying starlight. Includes brightness, distance, luminosity, temperature, mass, radius, density and an introduction to the H-R Diagram.

A table containing a list of the 20 brightest stars in the Earth's sky. Explanations of all the associated terms like magnitude, spectral type and radial velocity.

A detailed account about eclipses, transits and occultations. These are irregular phenomena that can be observed in the sky. Includes eclipse trips around the world with photos and well as photos of recent transists of Mercury and Venus.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in space. Distances in space are represented by the time light takes to travel there.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in time. The chronology of the Universe is compared to a real year.

How humanity came from believing Creation Myths to postulating the Inflationary Big Bang Theory. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people who broadened our understanding.

What do we mean by the words day, week, month, year? Who invented our calendar? When did the third millennium begin? The relation between time and astronomy.

The force that moves apples and planets. A short introduction to the ideas of Kepler and Newton that culminated with the theory of Universal Gravitation.

A look at the mathematics of a sphere with a section on sundials and the equation of time.


External Skywatching Links

These links will open in a separate window

StarDate Online
An excellent online skywatchers' magazine featuring detailed monthly information about astronomical events.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
A different image each day with an extensive archive and explanations.

Society for Popular Astronomy
Monthly planet and star gazing details with maps for young people.

Telescope House
A London based source of astronomical equipment, telescopes, software, maps and books.

Southern Sky Watch
Sky watchers information for the southern hemisphere.

Starry Night Pro
Superb planetarium software. Simulate the sky from anywhere on the Earth and any time.