GARRETT COUNTY SKIES
By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium
Sun and Moon this month – As March begins, the Sun appears in front of the stars of Aquarius, moving a degree a day eastward relative to the stars. On March 12, the sun enters Pisces where it remains till mid April. Both of these star groups are hidden in the Sun’s glare in March. The star group Aries is to the East of Pisces so Aries sets after the Sun, appearing low in the southwestern dusk. The star group Capricornus is to the West of Aquarius so Capricornus rises before the Sun and is visible low in the southeastern dawn. In early March, sunrises in Oakland are about 6:50 a.m. while sunsets are about 6:10 p.m. (11.3 hours of daylight) . On March 9, Daylight Time begins, advancing sunrises to 7:35 a.m. and sunsets to 7:20 p.m. Spring officially begins on March 20th. On that day, the sun rises due East and sets due West. Around the end of March, Oakland’s sunrises are about 7:05 a.m. and sunsets occur about 7:40 p.m. (12.6 hours of daylight). In mid March, the stars are last seen around 6:15 a.m.(early dawn) and then reappear about 8:30 pm.(late dusk).
March begins with the moon nearly in line with the sun (New Moon). On the evening of March 8, the moon appears half full in the southwestern evening sky. For a few days before and a few days after, the moon displays its craters and mountain ranges near the straight left edge of the moon where the sun there is rising. Binoculars held steady or a small mounted telescope will show the larger craters and mountain ranges. On the evening of March 10, the moon will appear near the bright planet Jupiter. On March 16th, the moon is full, rising near sunset and hanging in the sky all through the night. On March 18, the moon will appear near the planet Mars. On March 20, the moon will appear near the planet Saturn low in the late evening sky. On March 24, the moon will appear half full in the southern dawn.
On March 27th, the moon will appear near the brilliant planet Venus in the southeastern dawn sky. On March 30, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun.
Planets this month – The five nearest planets may be seen by eye, four of them shining steadily in contrast to the twinkling stars. Of the five, Mercury is usually the most difficult to see, at a low angle to the sun and seen very close to the horizon. Mercury can be seen very low in the southeastern dawn in early March. The planet Venus blazes in the Eastern dawn, rising two hours ahead of the sun. Mars can be seen low in the east in the late evening sky. Jupiter is the outstanding point of light in the southwestern evening sky in March. Saturn is in Libra and best seen in the southeastern sky before dawn.
Evening Stars this month – On March evenings, the Big Dipper’s scoop and handle is high in the North. The two leftmost scoop stars point left and down to the North Star, a modest star about half way up in the North. Orion can be seen in the Southwest as darkness falls. Orion’s belt of three stars in a row points left to Sirius, the night’s brightest star. Orion’s belt points right to Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull and beyond to the Seven Sisters or Pleiades star cluster.