Night Sky Guide

9 Must-See Astronomy Events in the March Night Sky (2024)

March marks a turning point in the Earth’s celestial dance. This month, we approach the first equinox of the calendar year, and the seasons officially ‘change’ after the equinox passes.

While this heralds the changing of light – more for the northern hemisphere, less for the southern – there are still fantastic opportunities to see what’s up in the March night sky. Particularly, March is a great month for planet-gazing and to try and spot deep space objects during a Messier Marathon. (More on that below!)

March Night Sky Hero

Some of the astronomy events in March do require a telescope or binoculars; where necessary, I’ve pointed that out so you can dust off your own equipment or upgrade if you need to. Any event that doesn’t explicitly say you need equipment can be viewed with the unaided eye, so there’s still plenty to enjoy even if you don’t have or want to invest right now.

Ready to explore the wonders of the universe this month? Read on for the best March night sky events to plan your month of stargazing.

This post was originally published in March 2018, and is updated annually – most recently in February 2024.
Featured photo credit: Brian Tomlinson via Flickr

March 3 – Asteroid 3 Juno at Opposition

March kicks off with an unconventional astronomical event: the chance to spot one of the largest objects in the main asteroid belt, 3 Juno, when it reaches opposition (the night where it is opposite the Sun from our earthly perspective, and thus well-lit for viewing).

3 Juno was discovered in 1804 and is one of the two largest stony asteroids in the belt. It can only be spotted using equipment such as a telescope or binoculars, but can still be a fun object to try and see if you never have before, if your skies are clear.

March 8 – The Wishing Well Cluster is Well Placed

I just love the names of some of the deep-space objects in the night sky, and the Wishing Well Cluster might be one of my favorites. While it’s not visible for northern hemisphere viewers as far as north I am (40°N and higher), the open-star Wishing Well Cluster will appear high in the sky for most viewers on the night of March 8th.

Using your stargazing equipment, look for it in the constellation Carina, which will reach its peak in the sky (wherever you are) around midnight local time on this night.

March 9 – Best Weekend for the Messier Marathon

Messier 31 - Horizon Productions SFL via Flickr
Photo courtesy of SFL via Flickr

Have you ever heard of the Messier Marathon? This is an opportunity to try and see all 110 Messier objects in a single night… yes, it’s an ambitious prospect!

The “best” night for the Messier Marathon each year typically happens at the new moon between March and early April, due to the Earth’s planetary position in our annual orbit. In 2024, the new moon will be on March 10th, making the weekend of March 9th-10th your best opportunity for completely dark skies all night long.

If you want to make an attempt at running the Messier Marathon, be sure to check my guide for this year’s “event.”

March 14 – Peak of the γ-Normid Meteor Shower

Night Sky Events September - Meteor Shower - Josh Beasley via Flickr
Photo credit: Josh Beasley via Flickr

And now for something different! After that series of planetary viewing opportunities and the first chance to run the Messier Marathon in 2024, mid-March welcomes a different kind of astronomical experience: the peak of theγ-Normid meteor shower on March 14th.

This southern hemisphere meteor shower runs from February 25th through March 28th, but astronomers predict that the night of greatest activity will occur on the 15th. On this night, you can expect to see up to six meteors per hour.

While the γ-Normids aren’t one of the major meteor showers in the year, viewers in the southern hemisphere can enjoy trying to spot meteors as they radiate from the constellation Norma.

March 20 – March Equinox

September Equinox - Chichen Itza

The March Equinox on March 20th is not a night sky event per se, but it’s worth noting on your calendar because it marks the changing of seasons. In the northern hemisphere, winter will officially end and spring will begin; in the southern hemisphere, summer will end and autumn will begin. People have marked this date throughout history and continue to do so across the globe with all kinds of celebrations and events.

From a celestial perspective, the March Equinox marks the point on the Earth’s annual orbit when everywhere on Earth has almost exactly 12 hours of day and night. “Equinox” means “equal night,” so this makes perfect sense. The perfect balance between day and night occurs because of the distance and angles between the sun and the Earth at its 23.5° tilt. 

Some archaeo-astronomers have studied sites around the world that seem to be built to mark the equinoxes. One example is Chichen Itza in Mexico. On the equinoxes, a shadow appears on the main pyramid (which is dedicated to the deity Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl) which shows a snake sliding down the staircase. It is believed that the pyramid was built specifically so this phenomenon would occur, as the feathered serpent Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl joins the heavens, Earth and the underworld, day and night in Maya beliefs.

March 21 – Close Approach of Venus & Saturn

While it won’t be visible to me – thanks, Sun! –, viewers further east and south of my location (roughly 40°N and 80°W) will have a chance to spot a very close approach between two planets of the solar system on the night of March 21st. You’ll want to double-check a star-finder app to see when the pair of Saturn and Venus will be visible – and then look again as they’ll be so close (19.3 arcminutes) they’ll be hard to tell apart!

March 24 – Mercury at its Evening Peak

Hello, tiny Mercury! After an evening peak in December and a morning peak in January, Mercury swings back to its evening peak after sunset on March 24th. You can look for the tiniest planet as high as 17° above the western horizon once the sun has set; it’ll only be this far above the horizon/sun for a few days though, so if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you’ll want to wait until its next (morning) peak in mid-May.

March 25 – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

In anticipation of the total solar eclipse across North America on April 8th, savvy astronomy fans like you and I know to look for lunar eclipses two weeks prior and two weeks after; this solar eclipse cycle includes only one preceding lunar eclipse, and it’s not even a particularly bombastic one at that.

On the night of March 25th, a penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible across the American continents; it will appear as only a minor dimming of the moon (no “blood moon” for this one!) that reaches its maximum at 07:13 UTC.

As penumbral lunar eclipses aren’t particularly spectacular for viewers, I don’t have a lunar eclipse viewing guide for this event; instead, mark your calendars for the solar eclipse a few weeks later!

March 30 – Makemake at Opposition

Makemake - NASA:ESA via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: NASA/ESA via Wikimedia Commons

It’s not common to have even one optimal dwarf planet-viewing opportunity in a month, much less two! After good chances to spot Pluto early in the month, Makemake is one of the final events worth seeing in the March night sky.

On March 30th, Makemake will reach opposition, and be well-illuminated and placed for viewing from our perspective here on earth. You can spot Makemake using a telescope or high-powered binoculars, in the constellation Coma Berenices. Look for it in the western sky and at its highest point (roughly 70°) around 2am ET.

That wraps it up. March was a busy month of planets moving through the sky, meteors streaking across it, and one great night for those who want to gaze deep into space. Have questions about these March night sky events? Let me know in the comments!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

7 Comments

  • Howard Parkin

    I do enjoy all the stuff you do but, Saturn and Jupiter are now in the morning sky, and Venus is at superior conjunction in late March. Greatest brightness is not till October

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      Valerie Stimac

      Thanks for reading, Howard. If you read the article, you’ll see that I do mention Jupiter and Saturn are in the morning, or am not specific about the time of day. Also, this source says that Venus will be at its greatest brightness in late March too: https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20210329_11_100 In early December, Venus will reach mag -4.7; in March it will be at mag -3.9.

  • Monty Ziebell

    I can only assume that the article you reference, when stating greatest brightness is refering to greatest illumination, since Venus is almost directly behind the sun in late March. Brightest magnitude of 2021 is in early December. Greatest separation from the sun is in late October.