WEATHER WEDNESDAY: Planet Spotting in Alabama this March

Weather Wednesday

Planet Spotting in Alabama this March

It’s now the first week of March, and some of our best nights for stargazing are in the weeks ahead! I’ve got your personal guide to the night skies this March as 5 of our planetary neighbors will be visible at various times with the naked eye!

By far, the most visible planet in the night sky this March is Venus. Behind the sun & the moon, Venus is the third brightest object in our solar system, and is easily the brightest planet. Venus will be very easy to spot all month long in Alabama, and for about 3 and a half to 4 hours after sunset if you look West towards the horizon. Of course, that will depend on our weather, so keep your fingers crossed for clear nights!

Here’s a simple example from earthsky.org for how to find Venus later in the month. To find her, look to the West and just below the bright side of the moon after sunset. Aldebaran, the brightest star in the Taurus constellation, will pass closer to the moon, so look closer to the horizon to point out Venus! The Pleiaides are a star cluster that will be another useful landmark for Venus-spotting. Look just below them late in the month to find Venus.

But what about the rest of the solar system? Most of them should be visible as well! Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, & Saturn should all be visible for select times of the month. Uranus & Neptune, unfortunately, are just a little too dim to see with the naked eye.

Jupiter is the second-brightest planet in our solar system. Just like Venus, Jupiter will also be visible all month long this March. But unlike Venus, Jupiter will only be visible before sunrise for about 2 and a half to 3 hours, looking Southeast towards the horizon.

Although Jupiter will be above all-month long, the real show in the sky comes close to the spring equinox from March 17-20th. That’s when all 4 of our other visible planets will be above before sunrise! Here’s another great diagram from earthsky.org…if you look Southeast one hour before sunrise during that timeframe, this is where you’ll be able to see our closest planetary neighbors!

Keep your eyes peeled on our forecast as we stay hopeful for clear nights!

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