HMNS’ Guide To The Night Sky in March 2019

March 4, 2019

This star map shows the Houston sky at 9 pm CST on March 1, 9 pm CDT on March 15, and dusk on March 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom

Mars remains in the west at dusk. Although now considerably dimmer than in July (and gradually fading), Mars still outshines all of the stars in its vicinity.

Venus is now fully established as the ‘morning star’. Face east-southeast at dawn and look for the brightest thing there, outshining the stars and all other planets.

Jupiter remains in the morning sky this month. Face south at dawn to find it.

Saturn has joined Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky, although it is much dimmer than those two. Look low in the southeast at dawn.

Celestial map from 1670, by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Brilliant winter stars shift towards the southwest during March. Dazzling Orion is almost due south at dusk. His three-starred belt is halfway between reddish Betelgeuse and bluish Rigel. Orion’s belt points up to Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. To Orion’s upper left are the twin stars Castor and Pollux, marking the heads of Gemini, the Twins. You can find Sirius, the brightest star we ever see at night, by drawing a line from Orion’s belt towards the horizon. To Orion’s left, about level with Betelgeuse, is Procyon, the Little Dog Star.

From Sirius, look a little bit to the right and then straight down to the horizon. If your southern horizon is clear of clouds and tall earthly obstacles, you’ll see Canopus, the second brightest star ever visible at night. This star is so far south that most Americans never see it and many star maps made in the USA omit it. (You must be south of 37 degrees north—the latitude of the USA’s Four Corners—for Canopus to rise). As you view Canopus, keep in mind that the sky we see depends on our latitude as well as on time of year and time of night.

Joining the winter stars are stars of spring rising in the east. Look for Leo, the Lion at dusk. Later in the evening, extend the Big Dipper’s handle to ‘Arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; these stars rise at about 10:00 in early March but by 9pm on the 31st.

Moon Phases in March 2019:

New Mar. 5, 10:04 a.m. 1st Quarter Mar. 14, 5:27 a.m.

Full Mar. 20, 8:43 p.m. Last Quarter Mar. 27, 11:10 p.m

Phases of the Moons. Source: NASA.

Mark Your Calendars For These Stellar Events!

Sunday, March 10, is the second Sunday of March. Accordingly, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 am on this date. (The time jumps from 1:59 am to 3:00, skipping the 2:00 hour). Don’t forget to set your clocks forward one hour Saturday night, March 9!

At 4:28 pm on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator, shifting northwards. Therefore, this is the vernal equinox, often called the first day of spring. On this day everyone has the same amount of daylight. After this day, day is longer than night for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Below the equator, night becomes longer than day after this date, making this the autumnal (fall) equinox for them.

George Observatory is open to the public! Come join us any clear Saturday night, and also Tuesday (the 12th) and Friday night (the 15th) during Spring Break!.

Clear Skies!

Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

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