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On the evening of 7 March, the moon is among the Hyades in Taurus.
Jupiter is very prominent in the evening and night sky, setting in the early hours. On 9 and 10 March, the moon is south of it. Round to the east is Mars, growing ever brighter, though not as bright as Jupiter. See both in the sky after Mars rises around mid-evening. Mars is approaching its opposition and close pass with the Earth next month. It is moving back towards Spica, as the Earth starts to overtake it. On the evening of 18 March, the moon is between Mars and the star Spica. Just listing stars visible in the night sky from the latitude of Britain and Ireland, Spica comes tenth behind Sirius, Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Rigel, Procyon, Betelgeuse, Altair and Aldebaran. Mars is by now very much brighter than Spica, and is indeed brighter than them all except Sirius. Mars is north of Spica on 25 March.
Saturn, to the east of Mars, rises in the late evening among the stars of Libra. The moon is close to Saturn on the morning of 21 March, and occults it as seen from southern Africa. As seen from Cape Town, the moon covers Saturn from 03:10 to 04:35 UT (05:10 to 06:35 SAST); by the end of the occultation, the sun has nearly risen.
On 20 March, the asteroid Erigone is due to occult Regulus as seen from a narrow track through or near New York, Syracuse and Belleville, at around 06:05 to 06:10 UT, or 02:05 to 02:10 EDT. Regulus should wink out for just a few seconds as the dark Erigone passes in front of it. Erigone is about 73 kilometres in diameter and 177 million kilometres or 9.9 light minutes from Earth at the time; Regulus is the brightest star in Leo, with a diameter three or four times that of the sun, and is 78 light years away.
Venus is a very bright morning star all month, low down in the SE as seen from the northern hemisphere. Mercury comes out to 27.5°W of the sun in the morning sky on 14 March. A great view for the southern hemisphere for a couple of weeks either side of this, with Venus well up above Mercury. Harder to see from the northern hemisphere, as even on the morning of 14 March, Mercury will be very low over the SE horizon. Venus is to the right and a little above. Venus itself comes to greatest elongation (46.5°) west of the sun on 22 March. It is already a little less bright than it was earlier in the month, as it moves further from Earth, and after 22 March it starts moving towards the far side of the sun, and back into the dawn twilight. The old moon is close to Venus on the morning of 27 March.
Jupiter is very bright in the evening sky, setting just after midnight by the end of the month. The moon is south of the huge planet on 6 April.
Mars comes to opposition on 8 April, and is a magnificent red jewel in the night sky, rising around sunset and setting around sunrise, easily outshining even the brightest star of Virgo, and indeed just brighter than the brilliant Sirius (though not Jupiter this year). It is in fact closest to Earth on 14 April (a result of the planets’ elliptical orbits), and is under 62% of the Earth-Sun distance away, at 92.4 million kilometres or 5.1 light minutes from Earth. Mars will be quite a lot brighter at its next opposition in May 2016, and even more so in late July 2018. On 14 April, though, the nearly full moon is near Mars in the sky, making the red planet temporarily less obvious.
The total eclipse of the moon on 15 April is best seen from the Americas and the Pacific. As seen from NW Europe, the moon is just about to set when the first partial shadow (penumbra) of the Earth touches the moon at 05:53 BST (04:53 UT). The total eclipse lasts from 07:06 to 08:26 UT or 00:06 to 01:26 Pacific Daylight Time.
Saturn rises mid-evening in the constellation Libra, and looks well in the sky to the east of Mars. The moon is near Saturn on the night 16/17 April, and occults it as seen from the south Pacific and southern South America. As seen from Santiago de Chile, the moon covers Saturn from 07:10 to 08:25 UT (03:10 to 04:25 Chile Standard Time).
Venus is the lovely morning star, low down in the east, as seen from the northern hemisphere. The old moon is close by on the morning of 26 April. There is an eclipse of the sun at dark moon on 29 April, visible as a partial eclipse from Australia and northern areas of Eastern Antarctica, with an annular eclipse seen in a very small area of the ice-covered continent. From Perth, 49% of the moon is covered at maximum eclipse at 06:43 UT (14:43 WST); Adelaide 51% at 07:08 (16:38 CST); Hobart 64% at 07:01 (17:01 EST); Melbourne 55% at 07:08 (17:08 EST), with the sun quite low above the western horizon in Hobart and Melbourne; as seen from Sydney, the sun sets just before it reaches maximum eclipse, but in all parts of SE Australia, the sun will set as a dramatic crescent. As always, take care when looking directly at the sun, and use special eclipse glasses if you can. You can also project the sun’s image on to card using a telescope or binoculars, but never actually look through the device at the sun, unless you have a properly fitted and undamaged eclipse filter, or you will permanently ruin your sight.
On 15 April the dwarf planet Ceres comes to opposition; it is nearest Earth on 14 April, 246 million kilometres or 13.7 light minutes away. At its brightest it cannot be seen from Earth with the naked eye, but binoculars should show it, north of the halfway point between the stars Tau Virginis and 84 Virginis. Ceres, named after the goddess of the corn, is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, 975 km in diameter at its equator, contains about a third of the mass of the asteroid belt, and may also contain life. The Dawn probe is due to arrive there in February 2015.
Look out for the Lyrid meteors around 22 April.