During late March, the moon glides past morning planets Jupiter and Saturn. The chart above shows the scene about 45 minutes before sunrise. Check your newspaper, television weather, or Internet source for the time of your local sunrise. These observations are not time sensitive because the moon and planets are higher in the sky than earlier in the year.
Step outside before sunrise and look south. Bright Jupiter is there about one-third of the way up in the sky. Saturn is about 25° to the lower left of Jupiter. Here’s what to look for:
March 26: This morning, the waning gibbous moon that is 68% illuminated is nearly 9° to the upper right of bright Jupiter
March 27: This morning. the nearly last quarter moon that is nearly 60% illuminated is over 4° to the left of Jupiter. Notice the distance that the moon moved from yesterday. With a binocular notice that the day-night line (terminator) on the moon is slightly convex – bowed outward.
March 28: At the beginning of morning twilight, the thick crescent moon that is 48% illuminated, 19° up in the south-southeast, is 9° to the right of Saturn. This morning the terminator is slightly concave – bowed in.
March 29: This morning, the moon that is 38% illuminated, 14° up in the southeast, is about 3° to the lower left of Saturn. Notice the amount the moon phase shrank during these mornings.
More about measurements. Degrees (°) are used in astronomy to measure separation of celestial objects and sizes of objects as they appear to us, not their real sizes, their apparent sizes. One-half degree is the apparent size of the moon. The next time you see the moon in the sky, extend your arm and then your pointer finger. The tip of the finger, with the finger nail, covers the moon. Your fist extended toward the sky covers about 10°. So, on March 26, the distance between the moon and Jupiter is about the distance across your fist. The next morning about three knuckles is the distance between the moon and Jupiter.
On a recent trip to a more southerly latitude, the morning planets presented themselves high in the sky. This album shows them on the mornings of February 28, March 1, and March 2, 2019. When travelling farther south, the southern stars and planets appear higher in the southern sky.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus, now appearing low in the southeast, shines during morning twilight with Saturn and Jupiter. The Venus-Saturn gap is 15 degrees. Jupiter is farther toward the south, over 25 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.
The moon joins the morning display of planets. The moon is slightly gibbous and reaches its last quarter this morning. The Imbrium Basin, is at the top of the moon near the terminator, the day-night line. Copernicus, the bright spot below Imbrium, is an impact crater. The moon is near 27 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter.
The planets are farther east. Brilliant Morning Star Venus is well past Saturn, about 7.5 degrees. Venus continues moving away from Saturn and the RInged Wonder appears slightly higher in the sky each morning.
Jupiter is nearly 26 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.
This morning, three days after the Venus-Saturn conjunction, the brilliant Morning Star Venus is 3.4 degrees to the left of Saturn. Watch the Venus-Saturn gap continue to grow during the next several mornings. Jupiter is about 26 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the southeast this morning. It passes Saturn in three mornings (February 18). This morning, Venus is 3.4 degrees to the upper right of Saturn. Jupiter is over 23 degrees to the upper right of Venus. Venus passed Jupiter about a month ago.
The moon passes the morning planets during late February and early March 2019. Step outside at about 1 hour before sunrise. Check your local sunrise time.
Here are the highlights for these mornings:
February 27: One hour before sunrise, three bright planets span about 36° from east-southeast to south-southeast. Brilliant Morning Star Venus is low in the east-southeast. Find a clear horizon to see it. Saturn, distinctly dimmer is 10° to the upper right of Venus. Venus passed Saturn just five days ago. Bright Jupiter is nearly 26° to the upper right of Saturn. The waning crescent moon (22.6d, 40%) is 2° to the upper right of Jupiter.
February 28: This morning Venus, Saturn, crescent moon (23.6d, 30%), Jupiter, and Antares are lined up across the sky from east-southeast to south-southeast.. The gaps to the solar system objects: Venus – Saturn, 11°; Saturn – Moon, 15°; Moon – Jupiter, 11°.
March 1: Jupiter rises 4.5 hours before sunrise followed by the waning crescent moon (24.9 days old, 22% illuminated) about 90 minutes later. Saturn follows the moon less than 20 minutes later. Venus rises about 45 minutes after Saturn. At 1 hour before sunrise, the three planets, with the moon 3° to the upper right of Saturn, span 38° from the east-southeast to south-southeast.
March 2: This morning is another classic Venus – moon (25.8d, 15%) pairing, with the crescent 4.3° to the right of the brilliant Morning Star, that is nearly 9° up in the east-southeast 1 hour before sunrise. Look for Earthshine, reflected sunlight from Earth gently illuminates the night portion of the moon. Jupiter is 39° to the upper right of Venus and Saturn is 13° to the upper right of Venus.
March 3: At an hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (26.7d, 9%), about 4° up in the east-southeast, is about 7° to the lower left of Venus.