Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Daylight Time Shift,  Full Moon, Evening Planets Change and Spring Begins


SUN & MOON THIS MONTH: At the start of March, Oaklandís sunrise is at 6:51 a.m. with sunset at 6:09 p.m.  Daylight then lasts 11 hrs. & 18 min. On March 11, sunrise is at 6:36 a.m. with sunset at 6:20 p.m. Then that evening, we set our clocks forward an hour to shift to Daylight Time. So on March 12, sunrise is at 7:34 a.m. with sunset at 7:20 p.m. On March 17, daylight and night are balanced at 12 hours with both sunrise and sunset at 7:26. Spring begins on March 20 when the sunís vertical rays cross the equator, moving North.  Over most of the world, the sun rises due East and sets due West. As March ends, Oaklandís sunrise is at 7:02 a.m. with sunset at 7:40 p.m. So March ends with 12 hrs. and 36 min of sunlight, a gain of an hour and 18 minutes during the month. During March, the sun moves from Aquarius into Pisces, so both of these star groups are lost in the sunís glare.

     On March 1, the moon appears as a slender crescent low in the western dusk to the left of the planet Mars.

 The much brighter planet Venus is below and to the right of the Mars-Moon pair. The evening moon appears half full on March 5. The evenings around March 5 are best for spotting lunar surface detail with binoculars (held steadily) or a telescope.  The moon is full on the evening of March 12, appearing South of Leoís hindquarters. Late in the evening of March 14, the moon will form a triangle with the bright planet Jupiter and the bright star Spica (of Virgo). On March 20, the moon will appear half full (like a reversed ĎDí) in the southern dawn (look around 6 a.m.).  At this same time, the planet Saturn will appear below the moon. Late on the evening of March 27, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun.  In the western dusk on March 29, a slender crescent moon will appear to the left of the planet Mercury (look about 8:30 p.m.)  On the next evening, the crescent moon will appear slightly above and to the left of the planet Mars.


BRIGHT PLANETS THIS MONTH: In March, the planet Venus overtakes the Earth and swings from the evening to the morning side of the sun.  At the start of March, Venus is setting about two hours after the sun. In mid March, Venus sets barely an hour after the sun. From March 21 to 29, Venus is at too low an angle to the sun to be seen.  In the last day of March,  Venus is splendid low in the eastern 6:20 a.m. dawn. The planet Mars shines forlornly in the western dusk, setting several hours after sunset. Mars is now in Aries and will stay in view through May. The bright planet Jupiter is the up and coming evening planet as its rising time comes earlier in each week. At the start of March, Jupiter can be seen low in the East about 10 p.m. Mid March has Jupiter appearing at 9 p.m. By the end of March, Jupiter can be seen during twilight at 8:15 p.m.  Nearby Jupiter is the bright star Spica of Virgo. The planet Mercury is creeping out of the sunís glare low in the western dusk in late March. The planet Saturn is just for early birds in March. In early March, Saturn rises about 3 a.m. In late March, Saturn comes up about 2 a.m. Best viewing is at dawn when Saturn is higher in the South.


STARS AT DUSK (8:30 P.M.) AND DAWN (6 A.M.):  At dusk, the bright winter evening stars are in retreat in March, sliding a little bit westward each week as the sun creeps across Aquarius and Pisces. Orion with his three star belt is magnificent in the Southwest.  The belt points rightward toward Taurus, featuring the bright orange star Aldebaran and the 7 Sisters star cluster.  The belt points left toward Sirius, the nightís brightest star. Above and to the right of Orion is the bright golden star Capella.  Because of its northerly position, Capella will stay in view until June. Above Orion is the star group Gemini, topped by the head stars, Pollux (on left) and Castor (on right).

       At dawn, the summer evening stars are prominent in the eastern and southern area of the sky. High in the East is the Summer Triangle with white-blue Vega, the brightest summer evening star. The Big Dipper is well placed in the North Northwest with the bottom bowl stars pointing rightward to the North Star.  Low in the South is the Scorpion, whose brightest stars make a letter ĎJí.


The Frostburg State Planetarium has free public programs on March 1, 15 and 29 at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The March main feature is about the star clouds of Orion. The Saturday public showing is on March 4 at 6 p.m. The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center.