In March, a series of visual feasts will be "staged" in the sky for astronomy fans, including moon-planet and planetary conjunctions and a lunar occultation.
A conjunction is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs when two celestial objects share the same right ascension or ecliptic longitude in the sky. Once every 27.3 days, the moon passes through a narrow part of the sky centered on the ecliptic and encounters planets, according to stargazing website starwalk.space.
Moon-planet conjunctions occur more frequently than planetary conjunctions.
A lunar occultation happens when the moon passes in front of a planet.
March 2: Venus-Jupiter conjunction
Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the solar system, will reach a conjunction.
Thanks to their brightness, people can easily observe the two stars with the naked eye, even in cities with relatively heavy light pollution, Xinhua reported, citing Song Yuanyuan, an astronomer with the Tianjin Science and Technology Museum.
March 19: Moon-Saturn conjunction
The waning crescent moon and Saturn will reach conjunction in the constellation Aquarius.
Observing them by the naked eye is recommended, as they will be too far to fit into the field of view of a telescope or binoculars.
March 21: Ceres at opposition
When Ceres and the sun are opposite, they will be on the two sides of the Earth, creating an almost straight line. The side of Ceres illuminated by the sun will then completely face the Earth, which is the best time to observe the planet.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and the only dwarf planet located in the inner solar system.
Song said that as long as the weather is fine, astronomy fans can find it in the sky with the help of a small astronomical telescope.
March 23: Moon-Jupiter conjunction
At 4:21 a.m., the waxing crescent moon will pass only 0°28' from Jupiter in Pisces's constellation, its closest approach this year.
Unfortunately, the new moon will be at just 0.2 percent illuminated by the sun and will not be visible in the sky.
March 24: Lunar occultation of Venus
The moon will pass in front of Venus, creating a lunar occultation visible from parts of Asia and Africa.
It will be visible from China, especially in the southern parts, in the evening.
Since the apparent diameter of the moon is much larger than that of Venus, it will completely block Venus when it "passes by." Venus will completely "disappear" briefly and quickly reappear after a while.
March 25: Moon-Venus conjunction
At 6:27 p.m., the waxing crescent moon and Venus will share the same right ascension in the constellation Aries. The appulse – i.e., the shortest apparent distance between two planets seen from Earth – will occur five minutes later.
They will be close enough to fit into the field of view of a telescope but will also be visible to the naked eye or through binoculars.
March 28: Moon-Mars conjunction
At 9:04 p.m., the waxing crescent moon and Mars will make the closest approach, passing within 2°17' from each other in the constellation Gemini.
Observers can view them with the naked eye or binoculars.