March 2020

MORNING PLANETS    Mercury (3-31), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn

Mountain Standard Time


01                             Venus: 44.6° E


02     12:57 p.m.        First Quarter: moonrise 10:46 a.m.; moonset 12:41 a.m.


04     07:58 a.m.        Moon at ascending node

         06:34 p.m.        Moon at greatest northern declination: 23.4° N


08      02:00 a.m.        Daylight Savings Time Begins

         06:09 a.m.        Neptune conjunction (occurs when Neptune is on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth)


09     11:48 a.m.        Full Moon: moonrise 07:12 p.m.; moonset 07:40 a.m.


10     00:33 a.m.        Moon at Perigee: 221,900 miles from Earth (357,100 km).


16     03:34 a.m.        Last Quarter: moonrise 02:23 a.m.; moonset 11:50 a.m.

         07:00 p.m.        Moon at descending node


17     08:07 a.m.        Moon at greatest southern declination: 23.5° S


18     02:19 a.m.        Moon-Mars: 0.8° N, occultation (occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes

                                 between it and the observer)

         04:18 a.m.        Moon-Jupiter: 1.6° N

         06:04 p.m.        Moon-Saturn: 2.3° N


19     09:50 p.m.        Vernal Equinox (the two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator and day

                                 and night are of equal length)


20     04:24 a.m.        Mars-Jupiter: 0.7° N


21     11:48 a.m.        Moon-Mercury: 4° N


23     07:59 p.m.        Mercury greatest elongation: 27.8° W


24     03:28 a.m.        New Moon: 07:28 a.m.; moonset 07:40 p.m.

         09:23 a.m.        Moon at Apogee: 252,711 miles from Earth (406,700 km)

         03:59 p.m.        Venus greatest elongation: 46.1° E


31     10:51 a.m.        Moon at ascending node

         02:00 p.m.        Mars-Saturn: 0.9° N


The Planets


Mercury emerges in the morning sky, becoming increasingly visible throughout the month as it gradually gains separation from the Sun, brightening all the while. It achieves greatest elongation west (GEW) on the 24th near the maximum possible value of 28o, though at relatively modest magnitude, +0.2. The geometry of the ecliptic favors Southern Hemisphere observers for this separation.


Venus towers majestically in the western sky during evening twilight and remains well placed later in the evening against a truly dark sky. It passes 2o north of Uranus on the 8th-9th. It reaches greatest eastern elongation (GEE) of 46o on the 24th, when its declination is fully 19o N of the Sun. The waxing crescent Moon passes 7o to its S on the 27th-28th.

At mid-month, Venus rises near 08:56 a.m., transits about 04:00 p.m., and sets around 11:03 p.m.

Its apparent visual magnitude is -4.3


Mars spends the month overtaking its fellow outer planets Jupiter and Saturn, passing within 1o of Jupiter on the 20th and of Saturn on the 31st. The latter conjunction will feature two planets of near-identical brightness, a rare sight. This cluster of outer planets will be very well seen in the Southern Hemisphere, but the shallow angle of the morning ecliptic will challenge Northern Hemisphere observers. The waning crescent Moon joins the scene on the 18th, when all four bodies will be within 100.

At mid-month, Mars rises near 04:10 a.m., transits about 08:52 a.m., and sets around 01:34 p.m.

Its apparent visual magnitude is +1.0


Jupiter remains part of a pleasing cluster of outer planets visible in the morning twilight. The waning crescent Moon passes 1.5o to its south on the 18th. It is in conjunction with Mars on the 20th, when both planets lie some 22o south of the celestial equator while the Sun is itself at the equinox. Thus the angle of the ecliptic is poor for Northern Hemisphere observers, favorable for those in the Southern Hemisphere.

At mid-month, Jupiter rises near 04:16 a.m., transits about 09:02 a.m., and sets around 01:48 p.m.

Its apparent visual magnitude is -2.0


Saturn moves from Sagittarius into Capricornus in the middle of the month as Jupiter and Mars gradually close in from the west. The waning crescent Moon joins the scene to make a can't-miss quartet on the morning of the 18th for Western Hemisphere observers. All will be low to the horizon for Northern Hemisphere observers, especially those in higher latitudes, and invisible beyond the Arctic Circle. Those in the Southern Hemisphere have much more favorable geometry for viewing the giant planets all year long. Mars passes within 1o of Saturn on the morning of the 31st.

At mid-month, Saturn rises near 04:42 a.m., transits about 09:33 a.m., and sets around 02:25 p.m.

Its apparent visual magnitude is +0.7


Uranus is visible with increasing difficulty early in the evening, even as the high angle of the ecliptic remains favorable to Northern Hemisphere observers.


Neptune is too close to the Sun to be seen throughout March. It is solar conjunction on the 8th.



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