Spot Your Planets This March!

– By Syeda Qudsia, NUST Science Blog

These look just like all other objects in the sky (except for the moon, perhaps), and you may think pretty-not-so-spot-able with your naked eyes, but they can be seen if you look at the right place at the right time!

This is a good month to watch out for our fellows in the solar system. And if you look, you may be able to see five of them…

Mars:

Mars is in retrograde right now, that is, the Earth is in the process of taking over Mars (as it does every two years) and is closest to Mars for all of 2012 (more specifically, 2011-2013). It is up all night long so it can be seen at anytime, provided you know where to look.

So, on March 5, 2012, (er – tonight…) it is pretty closer to earth and can be spotted diagonally to the moon, down, past Regulus, a blue-white star in the constellation Leo.  Yes, that’s the orange to red-ish one. But on March 7, 2012, it will be the closest to the moon, and will be much easier to locate, but this time, it’ll be diagonally up.

Taken from earthsky.org

Venus and Jupiter:

The thing is, this month is not only good for Mars, it is good for looking out for a lot of other stuff (read: planets), too. Let’s pick Venus, the third brightest object in the sky.

Venus – and Jupiter. Come March 8, and we’ll have both of these planets peeking down at Earth right after sunset, in the west. Don’t know what people on Earth will look like to them, but here’s how they will look to our eyes:

Taken from earthsky.org

Venus is white-ish and is easiest to see as it is the brightest in the sky. Jupiter will be easier to see due to its pairing, or “conjunction”, with Venus and appears a solid golden. But they are not going to be around much longer than 4 to 5 hours after sunset. They will be closest to each other by March 14-15, as Venus will seem to be going past Jupiter. And in late March, we will be able to locate both of them as they will appear closer to the most noticeable landmark of the sky – the moon!

Taken from earthsky.org

Mercury:

While we are on it, we’d better try and look for mercury, too. Regarding that, this post is a bit late because Mercury was at its best around March 4, but the planets don’t move that quickly, anyway. It may still be a better idea to catch it early in March, though. Here’s how to do it –  just be sure to look for it around an hour or so after sunset.

Taken from earthsky.org

Saturn:

Four down, one more to go: Saturn. Saturn may be a bit difficult than the rest of the four planets, because it isn’t as bright as them, but let’s trust that it can be seen if it’s out there. In fact, this planet has also been in retrograde for a while now and will be up till June, and as we will pass between Saturn and the sun around April 15, it’ll be the best in all year to view. For now, first of all, you’ll need to time yourself accordingly; unlike the other four, Saturn will not rise until 9 to 10 pm PST. On March 10, 2012, Saturn will pair thus with the moon, and will be a piece of cake!

Taken from earthsky.org

And, of course, lets hope for clearer nights!

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