Late in March, step outside about 90 minutes after sunset. (Check the sunset time for your location.) Orion is less than halfway up in the southwest. Taurus, with its star clusters — the Pleiades and Hyades — are farther to the right (north) of Orion. With the yellow-orange star Aldebaran, the stars of the Hyades make a letter “V.” The Pleiades, a cluster of bluish stars that resemble a miniature dipper, are farther to the right. This tiny cluster may have initially caught your attention out of the corner of your eye, as you first looked up. Take a look with binoculars, as a telescope has too much magnification to take in all the Pleiades or Hyades. In the Pleiades you may see a few dozen stars though your binoc. The stars are vivid blue, indicating blazing high temperatures.
Mars, an orangish looking bright “star,” is to the lower left of the Pleiades cluster. Each night Mars moves closer to the cluster, and passes closest on March 30. Take a look each night to see Mars’ movement through space compared to the starry background.
We are referencing the cluster’s bright star, Alcyone, in the measurements.
One degree is the twice the size the full moon appears in the sky.
Watch Mars move closer and then past the cluster as the month closes.
- March 25: Mars is 4.9° to the lower left of Alcyone.
- March 26: Mars is 4.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.
- March 27: Mars is 3.9° to the lower left of Alcyone.
- March 28: Mars is 3.6° to the lower left of Alcyone.
- March 29: Mars is 3.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.
- March 30: Mars passes 3.1° to the lower left of Alcyone and the Pleiades, a beautiful view through a binocular.
- March 31: Mars is 3.2° to the lower left of Alcyone. Tonight Mars is nearly the same distance as last night and slightly higher in the sky.