Deane Morrison / University of Minnesota
Venus takes a tumble into the sunset this month, but that still leaves three bright planets to adorn the evening sky. Mars shines in the south after nightfall, with Saturn to the west and Jupiter even farther west. Jupiter also exits the evening sky soon, but in a few months it will join Venus in the morning sky.
With two full moons and the spring equinox, what’s not to love about March? The first full moon arrives at 6:51 p.m. on the 1st, barely an hour after moonrise and just a couple of days after perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a lunar cycle. This means it’ll rise about as round and luminous as any full moon gets.
December wastes no time in giving us its best gift: a “supermoon.” It shines the night of the 2nd to 3rd, with the moment of fullness at 9:47 a.m. on the 3rd. Just 17 hours later—at 2:46 a.m. on the 4th—the moon reaches perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a lunar cycle. This will be the closest full moon of the year. To see it at its biggest and roundest, check your local time of moonset for the morning of the 3rd and look to the west at least a half hour earlier.
October is known for its clear, crisp weather, so let's hope the pattern holds. Mars joined Venus in the morning sky about a month ago. The red planet is climbing as Earth starts to catch up to it in the orbital race, while Venus is slowly dropping as it gets ready to sail behind the sun. On the 5th, the planets slip by each other, coming within half a moon's width. Look low in the east about an hour before sunrise; Venus will be the slightly higher and brighter object.
September opens with Venus hosting winter constellations in the eastern predawn sky. West of the planet, the bright star Procyon, in Canis Minor, the little dog, rises at almost the same time as Venus, followed about 40 minutes later by the brightest of stars: Sirius, in Canis Major, the big dog.