Mars, in eastern Aries, is nearly starting its March through Taurus. Mars is the lone planet in the evening sky. This evening, with a bright sky from a very gibbous moon, Mars is nearly 10 degrees below the Pleiades star cluster. It passes the Pleiades later in the month. With a binocular, investigate the two star clusters — Pleiades and Hyades — and track Mars as it moves against the distant star field.
This evening, the crescent moon (overexposed on the image, is about 7.5 degrees to the left of Mars. Tomorrow evening the moon is between the Pleiades and the Hyades star clusters. Take a look with a binocular.
The star clusters are considered part of Taurus. The Pleiades resemble a tiny dipper. Through a binocular you can see a dozen or so stars. The Hyades are to the left of the Pleiades. They make a “check mark” shape. When Aldebaran is included, the patter resembles a letter “V,” the face of the Bull. Aldebaran could be considered its fiery red eye. Zeta Tauri and Elnath are considered to be the bull’s horns.
Watch Mars move closer to Pleiades as the month progresses. It passes them late in the month.
In focus, the moon is 5.4 days old and displaying a crescent phase that is 25% illuminated.
The flagship of winter constellations is Orion, with its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, appears in the southern sky during early evening hours. With a binocular look below the three stars, Orion’s belt, toward Rigel. The region has a hazy cloud, the Orion Nebula, where stars are forming. Betelgeuse, along with Sirius, the Dog Star, and Procyon, the Little Dog Star, make an equilateral triangle known as the Winter Triangle. Take a look at them through your binocular and you can see some interesting contrasts of star color.
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.
Bright Mars, shining in the west this evening, is moving through the dimmer stars of Pisces. On February 12 it passes the planet Uranus. This evening it is about 3 degrees to the lower right of the planet. Use binoculars to locate the planet as its brightness is at the limit of human vision. Magnify the image to see the planet.
Mars passes Uranus on February 12. At the beginning of the month, Mars is over 7 degrees to the lower right of the dimmer outer planet this evening. If you’ve never seen the planet Uranus, Mars provides a way to see it. Uranus appears as a dim bluish or greenish star.
The second brighter star in this image is Hamal, the brightest star in Aries.
Unless you live under dark skies, you’ll need a binocular or small telescope to see it. It is near the star Omicron Piscium, a dimmer star in the constellation Pisces. It is cataloged by the Greek letter Omicron (ο). (It might be necessary to download the image above and magnify it to see Omicron and Uranus. The planet appears in this image as it is a 10-second exposure.)
This article provides more details about the location of Uranus and the track that Mars follows beginning February 6. Happy planet chasing!
After its close opposition last summer, Mars has faded in brightness. It is now in the western sky after sunset. It passes the planet Uranus on February 12. Uranus’ brightness is at the limit of eyesight. With most of the population living near bright street lights, a binocular is needed to locate the planet. Those living in rural areas can find it without optical assistance by staying outside long enough for their eyes to see the dimmest stars.
At the end of evening twilight, Mars is “that bright star” about halfway up in the west-southwest. It is west of the bright stars of Winter that are now dominating the southern sky. Each night Mars is farther east when compared to the distant starry background as it moves through the dim stars of Pisces. The brightest star in the region is Omicron Piscium, mostly indistinct to the unaided eye. Uranus is to the upper right of that star, but do not confuse it with 54 Ceti that is nearly the same brightness and color as Uranus.
The chart above shows Mars’ path beginning on February 6, when it is 4° from Uranus. The gap closes each night: Feb. 7, 3.5°; Feb 8, 2.9°; Feb 9, 2.3°; Feb. 10, 1.8°; and Feb. 11, 1.2°.
The crescent moon (6.2 days past its New phase, 31% illuminated) passes about 6° to the lower left of Mars on February 10. By this date, if you’ve not located the marching Mars, guidance from the moon’s location will help.
Mars passes 1° to the upper right of Uranus on February 12. After this date, Mars separates: Feb. 13, 1.1°; Feb. 14, 2°.
Take a look to locate Uranus, one of the planets that is not easy to locate because it is dim. Mars passing by makes it easier to locate.
With the planetary dance occurring in the southeastern sky during early morning twilight, Mars is the lone bright planet in the evening sky. It starts in the south near the end of evening twilight. During the next several weeks, it climbs higher in the southern sky as it moves among the stars. Here’s our summary of Mars in 2019 until it reaches its solar conjunction.
The waning gibbous moon, 11.7 days past its new phase and 83% illuminated, brightens the sky high in the east this evening.
More about Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury in the morning sky: