Friday, March 28
Saturday, March 29
Sunday, March 30
Monday, March 31
Tuesday, April 1
Wednesday, April 2
Thursday, April 3
Friday, April 4
Saturday, April 5
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is deep in the glow of sunrise.
Venus (magnitude –4.5) rises as the bright "Morning Star" just before dawn begins and moves higher as the sky lightens; look east-southeast.
Mars (magnitude –1.2, in Virgo) is nearing its April 8th opposition. It rises in twilight and dominates the southeast after dark — a fiery blaze with fainter Spica 5° or 6° to its lower right. They're highest in the south around 1 or 2 a.m. daylight-saving time.
In a telescope Mars has grown to just shy of the 15.1″ diameter it will display when passing closest by Earth in mid-April. See the telescopic Mars map and observing guide in the March Sky & Telescope, page 50. Use our Mars Profiler to find which side of the planet will be facing you.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.2, in Gemini) dominates the sky overhead in twilight (for mid-northern skywatchers). It sinks westward through the evening and sets around 2 or 3 a.m. See our articles on observing Jupiter in the January Sky & Telescope or the briefer online introduction Jupiter: Big, Bright, and Beautiful.
Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Libra) rises around 10 or 11 p.m. and is highest in the south around 3 a.m. By then it's far left of Mars and Spica, and less far to the upper right of Antares.
Uranus and Neptune are hidden behind the glare of the Sun.
"We may be little guys, but we don’t think small. It’s the courage of questions, of grasping our true circumstances, and not pretending we are at the center of it all, that is adulthood."
— Ann Druyan, 2014
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.
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