If you have never seen the planets or had trouble finding stars you may want to give this a try. No star maps, you just need to find the Moon. The best times to look are 30 minutes after sunset or when the Moon in is the morning sky about an hour before sunrise.
This month (Mar. 2012) the Moon will pass by the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus. The bright stars to see are Aldebaran, Rigel, Betelgeuse, Sirius, Procyon, Pollux, Castor, Capella, Spica, Regulus, and Antares. We say hello to the constellation Sagittarius and good by to the constellation Pisces. This is set up for Aurora, Colorado. Things will be slightly different depending on your location, but will still work for finding the planets and bright stars.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset look south to find the Moon
On Mar 1 the Moon is in the constellation Taurus the bull which is above the constellation of Orion the hunter. Look for the red giant star Betelgeuse below and to the left of the Moon. Further down directly below the Moon is Rigel a spectacular blue giant star. Both stars are in Orion. Betelgeuse is 135,000 times brighter than our Sun and Rigel is 85,000 times brighter than our Sun.
On Mar 2 the Moon has move to the constellation of Gemini, the twins. Directly below the Moon low on the horizon is Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, the big dog. It’s the brightest star in the sky.
On Mar 3 the Moon is still in to the constellation Gemini. The two somewhat bright stars above the Moon are Pollux (lower) and Castor (upper) the Gemini twins. Below the Moon is the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor, the little dog.
On Mar 4 and 5 the Moon is in the constellation Cancer, the crab. There are no bright stars in Cancer.
On Mar 6 the Moon will be slightly below and the right of the star Regulus, the king star, in the constellation Leo the lion. Regulus may be difficult to see in the glare of the near full Moon. The very bright star to the left and below the Moon is the planet Mars. Mars comes close to the Earth every two years (called opposition). Right now Mars is at its brightest (closest) for the next two years.
On Mar 7 the still in the constellation if Leo, the Moon slides next to Mars. This would be an excellent time to take a picture of a full moon and Mars rising in the east.
On Mar 8 the Moon will be full at 2:41 AM MDT for Aurora, CO. Even though the Moon looks full for three days, technically the Moon is full for only a moment in time. Mars is above the Moon, and above Mars and to the right is Regulus. The full moon marks the transition of the Moon moving from the evening sky to the morning sky. For more information on this month’s full Moon including names you can go here.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
OnMar 8 in the morning the full moon can be seen setting over the mountains. Start watching around 5:00 AM MST and note the Sun rising (6: 21 AM MST for Aurora, CO) as the Moon sets (6:07 AM MST for Aurora, CO). Mars is to the right of and above the Moon.
OnMar 9 you can watch a near full moon set again over the mountains. You will need to start a 5:15 AM MST again. Moonset is at 6:40 AM MST, Sunrise at 6:20 AM.
On Mar 10 the Moon will be below thebright star Spica in the constellation Virgo the virgin. Just above Spica is the planet Saturn.
On Mar 11 The Moon will be to the left of Saturn. Daylight Saving Time takes effect 2:00 AM.
On Mar 12 the Moon will be in Libra the scales. There are no noticeably bright stars in Libra.
On Mar 13 TheMoon will be slightly above and to the right of the bright star Antares, a red super giant and heart of the scorpion, in the constellation of Scorpius. Four months from now we will be observing Antares andScorpius in the early evening hours of summer.
OnMar 14 The Moon is at last quarter Moon (half moon). At this phase the Moon is approximately in the same place in space the Earth and you will be in 3.5 hours. Note how the Moon will plunge toward the rising Sun in the next six days.
On Mar 15 and 16 the waning crescent Moon is in the constellation of Sagittarius the archer. Sagittarius points the way to the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Most amateur astronomers call Sagittarius the teapot. The pattern of stars, albeit somewhat faint, looks more like a teapot than an archer.
On Mar 17 and 18 the Moon continues to wane to a thin crescent as it enters the constellation Capricornus, the goat. The Moon’s very thin crescent will likely be lost in the glare of the rising Sun.
On Mar 22 the Moon in new (New Moon) meaning it rises and sets with the Sun. The Moon is not visible. The Moon will start being visible in the early evening within a few days. The new moon marks the transition of the Moon moving from the morning sky to the morning sky.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset look west to find the Moon
On Mar 24 shortly after sunset a thin waxing crescent Moon can be seen in the west below two very bright stars Jupiter (lower) and Venus (upper)
On Mar 25 the Moon will be just to the right of Jupiter
On Mar 26 the Moon will be just to the left of Venus
On Mar 27 the Moon will be next to the brightAldebaran in the constellation Taurus the bull. Above the Moon is the bright star Capella the goat star in the constellation Auriga the charioteer. The Pleiades or seven sisters, which is absolutely marvelous in binoculars, is between the Moon and Venus.
On Mar 28 the Moon moves above Aldebaran. The red giant star Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion is below and to the left of the Moon.
On Mar 29 the Moon will be almost directly above the red giant Betelgeuse. The blue giant Rigel is below Betelgeuse. The Moon is in the approximate area it was at the beginning of the month.
On Mar 30 first quarter Moon will be in Gemini below the two stars Pollux (left) and Castor (right) the Gemini twins. When the Moon is at first quarter it is approximately in same place in space as the Earth and you were 3.5 hours ago.
On Mar 31 the Moon will be above thebright star Procyon in Canis Minor, the little dog. Below Procyon above the horizon is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, in the constellation Canis Major, the big dog.
See you next month
Wishing you clear skies