Interested in checking out some planets? Well, I hope you like getting up very early in the morning, because that’s what you’ll need to do in order see any planets during the month of March.
Right now, there are no planets visible in the early evening skies. But the sky makes up for it entirely by giving us three planets to enjoy in the pre-dawn sky, low in the east-southeast: Venus, Mars and Saturn.
The grouping makes for an incredibly beautiful sight. Venus is, of course, the brightest of the three, dominating the view and standing out brilliantly. Mars is a ruddy reddish little “star” just to the right and slightly below Venus. It’s difficult to see, since Mars is still quite far away from us. The red planet won’t be prominent in our sky again until 2023, when it next reaches opposition and comes closer to our planet again.
Saturn is a pretty golden yellow color, and sits a little further away and lower towards the horizon than the other two, off to the left of Venus. It’ll be a bit of a toss up as to which appears brighter to you, Mars or Saturn. Neither one will be particularly easy to pick out – you’ll need to use Venus as your guide.
Your best view will be had before the sunrise, around 6:30AM. You’ll a flat, clear, eastern horizon to see this lovely grouping of planets. Believe me, it will be worth getting up early in the morning to see them, especially on March 28. On that date, a slim waning crescent Moon will slide in to join the three planets, making an absolutely stunning tableau in the early morning sky. It’s a sight not to be missed.
So what does all this mean? Not a lot, other than clearly demonstrating to us that the planets are definitely all in motion, orbiting around the Sun just as we do. This grouping of planets is visible to us simply because all three of them happen to lie in roughly the same direction from Earth’s line of sight. The planets remain many millions of miles away from each other, even though they seem close in our sky. It’s simply a matter of perspective. And don’t worry about all that planetary gravity tugging on us either – even if all seven of the other major planets were to be in a perfectly straight line, all tugging on us from the same direction (which pretty much never happens), their combined gravity wouldn’t even register compared to the gravitational pull of the mighty Sun, keeping all the planets in orbit. So there’s no reason to feel any concern over what this planetary party means.
Just sit back with your morning cup of coffee and enjoy the show.
Carpe diem, in this case!