March 2023 marks a major astronomical shift. In the Northern Hemisphere, the cold Winter season is finally coming to an end and the warmer Spring season is about to begin.
For stargazers, the third month of the year brings plenty of celestial events to look out for in the night sky. The month begins and ends with a few spectacular planetary alignments. Both Mercury and Venus form conjunctions with outer planets of our solar system. And, you can catch a glimpse of the last Full Moon before the Spring equinox.
(Looking to review last month's astronomy events? View February 2023)
Our highlighted list of astronomy events for March serves as a reference for the key astronomical events to be aware of.
9 Astronomical Events in March 2023:
- Mercury and Saturn Conjunction - 3/2 @ 4:35am EST
- Venus and Jupiter Conjunction - 3/2 @ 5:41am EST
- Full Worm Moon - 3/7 @ 7:40am EST
- 3rd Quarter Moon - 3/14 @ 10:08pm EST
- March Equinox - 3/20 @ 5:20pm EST
- New Moon - 3/21 @ 1:24pm EST
- Ceres at Opposition - 3/21 @ 1:37pm EST
- 1st Quarter Moon - 3/28 @ 10:32pm EST
- Venus and Uranus Conjunction - 3/31 @ 2:13am EST
For simple navigation, you can click on a specific event listed above to go directly to that section of the article. Below, we will explore each of these events in more detail.
Astronomy events to mark on your March 2023 calendar:
March 2nd - Mercury and Saturn Conjunction
On the first Thursday of the month, Mercury and Saturn will align at the same right ascension in the sky. This is referred to as a conjunction.
The event will occur in the Aquarius constellation at 4:35am EST. At this time Mercury will be shining at magnitude -0.6 and Saturn will be at a dimmer magnitude +0.8.
At the moment of conjunction, both planets will be 12° away from the Sun at right ascension 22h06m30s. However, Mercury will be at a declination of -13°55' and Saturn at a declination of -12°59'.
Their angular sizes will be 4"9 and 15"4 respectively.
March 2nd - Venus and Jupiter Conjunction
About an hour after the Mercury and Saturn conjunction occurs, Venus and Jupiter also form a conjunction in the sky. This takes place at 5:41am EST.
From the Northeastern US, the two planets will appear 23° above the western horizon around 6:04pm EST, located in the Pisces constellation. Venus will be shining at magnitude -4.0 and Jupiter at magnitude -2.1. Therefore, both planets will appear bright enough for naked eye views.
At the moment of conjunction, the two planets will be positioned 30° away from the Sun at right ascension 00h45m20s. While Venus will be at a declination of +04°12', Jupiter will be at a declination of +03°40'.
Their angular sizes will be 12"2 and 33"3 respectively.
March 7th - Full Moon | Worm Moon
The last Full Moon before the March equinox will occur on Tuesday, March 7th at 7:40am EST. This marks the phase of the Moon's 29.5 day lunar cycle when it reaches peak illumination.
As observed from Earth, we experience this moment anytime the Moon's ecliptic longitude appears 180° away from the Sun's ecliptic longitude.
According to the Farmers' Almanac, in the Native American cultures, the Full Moon that occurred at this time of year was referred to as the Worm Moon. This was due to the appearance of earthworms as the soil began to thaw with the start of Spring.
Additional names associated with this Full Moon are Lenten Moon, Crow Moon and Sugar Moon.
This Worm Moon will appear positioned in the Leo constellation at right ascension 11h15m40s and a declination of 8°53'N. Its angular size will be 29'49".
During this time, the moon will rise above the eastern horizon around sunset (6:06pm EST) and set below the western horizon around sunrise the following day (7:03am EST).
As far as naked eye observations of the Moon goes, Full Moon phases can be quite enjoyable. However, try not to plan on star cluster or detailed planetary observations because the Moon's bright illumination may hinder your views.
March 14th - 3rd Quarter Moon
Midway through March, the Moon will arrive at its last quarter phase of its 29.5 day lunar cycle.
The exact moment will occur on March 14th at 10:08pm EST when the Moon is positioned at right ascension 17h32m30s and a declination of 27°13'S. Its angular size will be 31'56".
On this date in the Northern Hemisphere, the Moon will appear half illuminated on its western side. This is known as a waning crescent Moon.
From our perspective on Earth, the third quarter moment occurs when the Moon's ecliptic longitude is 90° away from the Sun's ecliptic longitude. On this day, the Moon will rise above the eastern horizon around 1:47am EST and set below the western horizon at approximately 10:50am EST.
March 20th - March Equinox
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the month of March brings the first day of the Spring season. On March 20th, the length of day and night are equivalent at 12 hours each. From there, the days will continue to get longer and the nights will become shorter, until we reach the Summer solstice on June 21, 2023.
The exact moment of the March equinox occurs when the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator at 5:20pm EST.
At this time, the Sun will have a right ascension close to zero positioned at 23h58m and a declination of -00°07' in the Pisces constellation. The Sun's angular size will be 32'07".
March 21st - New Moon
A day after the March Equinox, the Moon will reach its New Moon phase of its 29.5 day lunar cycle. The event will occur on Tuesday, the 21st at 1:24pm EST.
The Moon will be positioned at right ascension 00h06m20s and a declination of 2°25'S in the Pisces constellation. Its angular size will be 32'38".
Every 29.5 days, the Moon and the Sun appear to be placed at the same ecliptic longitude. This is referred to as the New Moon phase of the lunar cycle.
The reduced light exposure provides a beneficially dark sky for stargazers. This night is often a great opportunity for observations of higher magnitude star clusters and celestial objects that are difficult to view under more illuminated conditions.
March 21st - Ceres at Opposition
The asteroid Ceres will reach opposition on March 21st at 1:37pm EST. When a celestial object is "at opposition", this refers to its 180° position opposite to the Sun.
At this time, Ceres will be located in the Coma Berenices constellation positioned at right ascension 12h29m30s and a declination of 15°20'N.
Ceres will also be at perigee (closest proximity to Earth) at a distance of 1.59 AU and will appear brightest to us in the night sky at magnitude +6.9.
March 28th - 1st Quarter Moon
On Tuesday, March 28th at 10:32pm EST, the Moon will reach the first quarter phase of its lunar cycle. During this part of its 29.5 day lunar cycle, it appears high in the sky around sunset.
From the Northern Hemisphere, the Moon will appear half illuminated on its eastern side. This is also known as a waxing crescent Moon. It will be positioned in the Gemini constellation at right ascension 06h35m20s and a declination of 27°53'N. Its angular size will be 29'45".
The first quarter moment occurs when the Moon's ecliptic longitude is 90° away from the Sun's ecliptic longitude, from our perspective on Earth. On this day, the Moon will rise above the eastern horizon at approximately 10:52am EST and will set at approximately 3:03am EST.
Although many mistakenly believe that the best time to observe the Moon is when its at the Full Moon phase, the first quarter phase is generally considered the ideal time for Moon observations. Details of the Moon that are less discernible during a Full Moon are much more pronounced during the first quarter Moon.
March 31 - Venus and Uranus Conjunction
Venus will pass just 1°17' north of Uranus on the last day of the month at 2:13am EST. Since they will share the same right ascension at 02h56m10s, this moment is referred to as a conjunction.
The event will take place in the Aries constellation with Venus at a declination of +17°44' and Uranus at a declination of +16°26'.
The two planets will be shining at magnitude -4.0 and +5.8 respectively with angular sizes of 13"9 and 3"4.
Although it's great to be aware of the events in the night sky this month, the fun part is actually observing them. Many of the events discussed can be seen without special optical equipment. However, a quality pair of binoculars or a premium telescope will significantly enhance your viewing experience.
If you're in the market for purchasing or upgrading your astronomy gear, we have a curated selection of binoculars, telescopes and accessories to choose from. Our online store offers high quality optics from industry-leading brands at value prices to help you explore the world above.