March 2014 Starwatch

Starwatchby Deane Morrison

Mars is on the march this March.

In early April, Earth overtakes Mars in the race around the sun, and during March our two planets come 15 million miles closer. As Earth gains on it, we see Mars brightening and coming up over the eastern horizon earlier each night. The Red Planet begins March rising just over three hours after sunset and ends the month rising only an hour afterward. It travels the night sky in company with the bright star Spica, in Virgo.

Saturn trails Mars by about two and a half hours. The ringed planet is in Libra, between Virgo and Scorpius. Earth catches up to Saturn in May, so we don’t have to wait too long to see it, too, in its glory.

Jupiter still dominates the winter constellations as they make their way toward their seasonal oblivion in the west. East of these bright stars and west of bright Regulus, in Leo, look for the faint, beautiful Beehive star cluster. Its Latin name is Praesepe, the manger. Framing the cluster are two stars called the Aselli, or asses, feeding at the manger.

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