If you been enjoying clear skies, the full moon on March 5 will come as no surprise. For a week, its brilliant reflected glow has blurred all but the brightest celestial spots in the night sky. Radiant Jupiter did a competent job of keeping up as the two traveled side-by-side on March 2.
By the time it reaches full, the moon will have slipped past Jupiter, currently located amid the faint stars of the Crab, as well as Regulus, bright alpha star located at the beginning of the constellation Leo. This last moon of winter is variously known as the Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, or Worm Moon, and it's not difficult to imagine why. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is slowly, slowly coming back to life as the Sun inches its way north. It won't be much longer now.
On display all through this month of transition is that beautiful pairing of Mars and Venus separating in faint Pisces. The 'Evening Star' is easy to see, shining brightly before the last rays of the setting sun disappear, but Mars is much fainter, discernible only after twilight has closed, and it will be moving ever closer to the horizon as March progresses. The two planets will have their separate meet-ups with the waxing moon on the 21st, when its slender crescent arc perches close to Mars, and on the 22nd, when the moon swings up to Venus. By the end of the month, both planets will have moved into Aries, with Mars setting about 45 minutes after nautical twilight.
Last month's Venus-Mars pairing with the waxing crescent moon on 20th of February, photographed by Laurent Laveder ( one of our favorites, check out his facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/pocdy56). Later this month a similar grouping – not quite as close – on the 21st and 22nd.
As winter wanes, majestic Orion and Sirius are high in the sky at sunset and sink into the west after midnight. Once its nemesis Orion is out of sight, it's time for Scorpius to crawl above the eastern horizon, and this year Saturn makes the constellation easier to spot as it's closely paired with lucida Antares. The planet and ruddy star will get their turn to travel with a waning moon after midnight and before dawn on the 12th.
Last, but definitely not least, Jupiter shines in the March sky all night long, prominent in the east after sunset and meeting up with the waxing moon on March 29th.
If you're in Greenland, the big story will be the solar eclipse visible on March 20. For the rest of us, we'll have to be content with the Vernal Equinox which follows on March 21. It is then that the Sun will rise exactly due east and set exactly due west. Few things are as certain, so behold and enjoy!