March 2023 Sky Guide: 5 Celestial Events You Can't Miss
Two bright planets meet, a stunning star appears, and the Worm Moon rises.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re probably starting to see the first signs of spring. March marks the official change of seasons, with spring beginning at the vernal equinox in just a few weeks.
But before we can officially say goodbye to winter, there are a few exciting events happening in the night sky that you don’t want to miss. A stunning conjunction, the return of a bright star, and the Worm Moon will all make an appearance soon.
Here are 5 celestial happenings to mark on your calendar this month:
March 1: Venus and Jupiter conjunction
If you’ve been paying attention to the sky recently, you’ve probably noticed super-bright Venus and Jupiter creeping closer together in recent weeks.
On the first night of March, the planets will reach a conjunction. This simply means that they appear super close together in the sky, when in reality they’ll still be hundreds of millions of miles apart.
To see the conjunction, look near the Moon once the skies are dark. Venus and Jupiter should be the brightest objects up there besides the Moon itself. If you aren’t confident that you’re looking at the right planets, try using a sky map to verify what you’re seeing.
The conjunction will be visible to the naked eye as long as skies are clear in your area. And if you have a telescope, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Jupiter’s moons, as well.
March 5 – Regulus meets the Moon
As the Moon reaches its waxing gibbous phase, watch nearby for the bright star Regulus to appear. It will be near the lower right side of the moon on the evening of March 5, according to NASA.
The distant star Regulus is one of the brightest in the sky. It outshines the rest of the stars in the constellation Leo, and you might also hear it called Alpha Leonis.
Regulus is a harbinger of spring, as its arrival in March signals the change of seasons. It can also be seen this month forming a triangle with the stars Arcturus and Spica, an alignment aptly named the Spring Triangle.
March 7 – Worm Moon
Be sure to catch a glimpse of the bright, full Moon on the evening of March 7. It will officially rise at 12:40 pm Universal Time, according to the U.S. Navy’s astronomical calendar. That’s 7:40 am Eastern, but you probably won’t get a good look at it until the Sun sets.
March’s full Moon is known as the Worm Moon, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The name comes from the Naudowessie (Dakota) people and has been used by other Native American groups as well.
Rather than referring to the worms that emerge from the ground after spring rains, the nickname was more likely given for the worm-like beetle larvae that crawl out of trees this time of year. Other nicknames for March’s full Moon include the Sugar Moon, Eagle Moon, and Lenten Moon.
If you’re eagerly waiting for darker skies to observe the stars and planets, mark your calendar for the New Moon on March 21.
All month long – Potential fireballs
When it comes to the best months to spot meteor showers, March is unfortunately a dud. The American Meteor Society (AMS) calls this month the slowest for meteor activity.
But that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely nothing to spot. If you watch the evening skies, you might be lucky to see a bright fireball. The AMS reports that activity from these sporadic, bright meteors seems to pick up during March.
There are also a few weak meteor showers that normally happen this time of year, such as the delta Mensids and beta Tucanids. The next major shower will be the Lyrids, which peak on the evening of April 22.
March 20 – Equinox
One sure sign of the changing seasons is the noticeable shortening or lengthening of days. At this time of year, the Northern Hemisphere is gradually experiencing more daylight, while the Southern Hemisphere is seeing less with each passing day.
During the equinox, the length of the day and the night is exactly the same. This has to do with how the Earth’s tilt changes over the year, which affects where the Sun appears in relation to the equator.
March 20 marks the first of two equinoxes that we will experience this year. The second equinox happens on September 23.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the March equinox marks the official first day of spring. Whether or not it actually feels like spring is a different story — one that’s dependent on where you live and what’s in the forecast.