March Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, March Moon

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Coma Berenices, Canes Venatici, Bootes, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus

Comet Journals

Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period 9th magnitude comet passing through Ophiuchus and Serpens Cauda, and reaching Aquila in March. Perihelion passage was on February 14, 2024. It will be brightest on March 1. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14th, then leaves for parts unknown.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinsham 1 2023, a short period (6.67 years) comet at 8th magnitude between Leo and Virgo passed through perihelion on Christmas and was closest to Earth on Dec 30.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is an enormous periodic comet which visits every 71 years. It is approaching naked eye visibility at 5th magnitude as it moves through Andromeda, Pisces, Aries, and into Taurus in March. Perihelion passage is April 21. It may be visible near the Sun during the total solar eclipse on the 8th. Closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) is on June 2.

Mars Landers

After 1000 days, the Perseverance Rover has completed its mission of exploration of the river delta formed on the edge of Jezero Crater when, 3.7 billion years ago, a large river breached the crater’s rim, flooded the crater, and filed it with a 100 foot deep lake.

The rover has moved onward, away from its faithful companion, Ingenuity, the little helicopter lying on the surface with a broken blade. Perseverance is currently exploring the inner margin of the crater and obtained bio-relevant carbonate and iron phosphate rocks which may reveal the ancient interaction between atmosphere, surface water, and possible ancient life.

The next phase of exploration is to continue up the valley of the river which formed the delta to the inlet breaking through the crater rim. From there, mission scientist plan an ascent out of the river valley and beyond the rim onto the surrounding upland which is comprised of much more ancient rocks. Scientists suspect that ancient Martian groundwater in this region interacted with rocks in a way that created an environment completely different from what the rover has explored so far.

Meteor Showers

The Virginids are a minor shower at the end of the month with up to 5 meteors per hour in dark skies. Virginids: March – early April, 2-4AM. Active Jan. 25-Apr. 15. Radiant 13h00m +04°(Mar 25). ZHR up to 5. 30 km/sec. Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Asteroid 1998 SJ 70.

Planet Plottings

Mars (1.3 to 1.2) and Venus (-3.8) in Capricornus and Aquarius, and Saturn (1.0 to 1.1) in Aquarius rise in eastern skies before the Sun in March. Following sunset, western skies display Mercury (-1.6 to 1.3) in Aquarius and Pisces, Jupiter (-2.0 to -1.9) in Aries, Uranus (5.8) in Aries, and Neptune (8.0) in Pisces. Mars rises an hour and 45 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and Venus rises 14 minutes later. Venus, Mars, and Saturn appear near the waning crescent Moon on the 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively.

On the 21st, Venus is only 0.3° from Saturn. Neptune, buried in the glare of sunset all month, is within a degree of Mercury on the 8th, and reaches conjunction with the Sun on March 17. On the 1st, as Mercury sets only 5 minutes after the Sun. It ascends higher each evening, appearing near the waxing crescent Moon on the 10th. By mid month it sets 49 minutes after the Sun and is easily visible in the western evening sky. It reaches greatest eastern elongation when it is 19° from the Sun on the 24th.

Jupiter blazes in the western sky, setting about a half hour before much dimmer Uranus. The waxing crescent Moon passes Jupiter on the 13th, and Uranus on the 14th. The lengths of daylight and darkness are equal on the 19th when the Spring Equinox is celebrated. The precise lineup of Earth, the Sun, and the constellation Pisces occurs at 11:06PM EDT despite the claims of astrological horoscopes which maintain that Aries is still in line as it was 2000 years ago. To bad that they forgot about the wobbling of Earth’s axis which has moved the equinoxes place in our orbit, making the horoscopes 2000 years out of date.

But hey, what is 2 millennia +/- amongst friends?




Planet Passages




Capricornus, Aquarius


New Moon

5:00AM EDT



Aquarius, Pisces

-1.6 to -1.3

Max East Elongation

7:00PM EDT



Capricornus, Aquarius


Saturn, 0.3°S

10:00PM EDT



Capricornus, Aquarius

1.3 to 1.2



-2.0 to -1.9



1.0 to 1.1

Venus, 0.3°N

10:00PM EDT







Solar Conjunction

7:00AM EDT


March Moon

The New Moon of March is in Aquarius on the 10th at 5:00AM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1252 which ends 29.46 days later with the New Moon of April in Pisces on the 8th at 2:23PM EDT. The Full Moon on the 25th occurs at 3:00AM EDT in Virgo. It is called the Lenten, Sap, Crow, or Worm Moon. Colonial Americans named it the “Fish Moon”. To the Celts it was the “Moon of Winds”, and the Chinese refer to it as the “Sleepy Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Chaste Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon).

Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. The third moon of Creation is Sugar or Worm Moon. “As the maple sap begins to run, we learn of one of the main medicines given to the Anishnabe which balances our blood, and heals us. During this time, we are encouraged to balance our lives as we would our blood sugar levels, by using Divine Law.”

Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 10th when the Moon is at 221,764 mi. (56.25 Earth radii) at 3:04AM EST. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on March 23 at 11:45AM EDT when the Moon’s distance is 252,460 mi. (64.00 Earth radii).
The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Mars on the 7th, Venus on the 8th, and Saturn on the 9th. The waxing crescent passes Neptune and Mercury on the 10th, Jupiter on the 13th, and Uranus on the 14th.




Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aquarius


5:00AM EDT, 3/10 New 0 Days
Mercury Pisces


0.7°N, 9:31PM EDT, 3/10 Waxing Crescent 0.69 Days
Venus Capricornus


3.0°S, Noon EST, 3/8 Waning Crescent 27.33 Days
Mars Capricornus


4.0°S, Midnight EST, 3/7 Waning Crescent 26.83 Days
Jupiter Aries


4.0°N, 3:00AM EDT, 3/13 Waxing Crescent 3.67 Days
Saturn Aquarius


1.0°N, 1:41PM EDT, 3/9 Waning Crescent 28.82 Days
Uranus Aries


3.0°N, 9:00PM EDT, 3/14 Waxing Crescent 4.13 Days
Neptune Pisces


0.1° S, 4:30PM EDT, 3/10 Waxing Crescent 0.48 Days