Click on any planet below to go straight to its section.
The table below shows key data for the planets this month, including rise, transit and set times, as well as magnitude, apparent size and position data (right ascension and declination).
Events that occur when the sun is below the horizon are shown with a black background and white text. All other events happen when the sun is in the sky and other for not visible for observation.
This is the first – and last, for a while – month where we’re able to see all the planets.
It’s a tricky month for planet watching this March. The best we get is Venus and Jupiter putting on a show in the first evenings of the new month. After that, Venus improves but Jupiter heads for the sun. The only other planets with decent viewing are Mars (but this shrinks and dims considerably this month) and Uranus.
Saturn, Mercury, and Neptune are all too close to our star to be observed at all this month.
All of the images below can be opened full screen in a new tab by clicking on them
Mercury is above the horizon in this image… but it’s too close to the rising sun for us to see it.
Just two days away from passing behind the sun, it’s impossible to see Mercury.
This view is 8pm because Mercury is now an evening planet. It’s still too close to the sun to see.
Mercury passes behind the sun (superior conjunction) on 17 March and spends virtually all of the month too close to our star’s glare for us to see it.
The only chance we’ll get to glimpse the smallest planet this March is in the last couple of days of the month, when we might just spy it before it sets, about 50 minutes after the sun.
The view at 7pm is of Venus close to Jupiter, about 21° over the western horizon.
Venus leaves Jupiter behind as it gets further from the sun. At 8pm (DST) Venus is 25° above the horizon.
Left on its own now, we can see Venus high towards Taurus at 8:30 in the evening.
The two brightest planets are easy to see at the start of the month, if not especially well-placed for observations. Venus and Jupiter are less than 1° apart on the first evening of the new month, and this gap only slowly increases for the first few nights.
By the middle of the month, Jupiter is fading away but Venus is getting stronger as it soars higher into the evening sky.
As March closes out, the Venusian disc is 14 arcseconds wide and shining at a very bright magnitude -4.0. What your telescope will reveal by this time is a crescent-shaped disc that is only three-quarters illuminated.
See Mars high towards the zenith (overhead) at 8pm, between the horns of Taurus the Bull.
Ten days later and we see the same thing at 9pm (DST). The disc is only seven arcseconds across now.
That smaller disc results in a dimmer planet. Mars’ magnitude is 0.9 as we head towards the end of the month.
The glory days for Mars are firmly behind us now, sadly. The planet dims markedly from magnitude 0.4 to magnitude 1.0 over the course of March and that’s because it’s getting further away and shrinking.
On the first day of the month, Mars is 173 million km away, presenting an 8.1 arcsecond disc. On March 31st, it’s shrunk to 6.4 arcseconds and is 218 million km away. It recedes over 1 million km per day in March!
As we saw earlier, Jupiter starts the month close by to Venus. This is the view at 7pm.
By 8pm (DST), Jupiter is just 11° above the western horizon. These are the last days we can observe it for a while.
This view at 8:30 shows how close Jupiter is to the sun. It will pass behind our star on 11 April.
Jupiter disappears from view this month. We’ve got the first half of March to enjoy it still, but only low in the western sky after sunset.
The second half of the month sees the largest planet get closer and closer to the sun as it prepares to pass directly behind it (superior conjunction) on 11 April. By the last days of March, we’ll be unable to see Jupiter as it’ll be lost in the glare from the setting sun. It will be mornings in May before we get a decent chance to see it again.
This view at 6:30am shows Saturn just above the eastern horizon.
At 7am (DST) the ringed planet is still too low on the horizon to be effectively observed.
This is the view at 6:30 and there is distance between the sun and Jupiter now, but it’s still less than 5° over the horizon.
Saturn is now a morning object, having passed behind the sun on 16 Feb. However, the ecliptic – the line the planets appear to follow – is so shallow in the morning this month, that Jupiter never really pulls away from the the sun enough for us to enjoy it.
Even though Jupiter rises 90 minutes before the sun on the last morning of March, it’s still only 8° over the horizon forty minutes before sunrise. Better views are coming next month.
At 9pm, Uranus is about 1/3rd of the way above the western horizon in Aries.
Neptune, on the other hand, is just two days away from passing behind the sun, and so is not visible.
We can’t see Neptune at all this month because it’s passing behind the sun on 17 March.
Uranus, however, is still there to be enjoyed in a dark evening sky, where it shines at magnitude 5.8 above the western horizon.
Use the table below to see when each of the planets is observable for each day this month. Click on it for full screen.
A planet is classed as observable when it is more than 10° above the horizon and the sky is dark enough for it to be observed.
Planet ephemeris tables produced with the kind permission of Dominic Ford. Sky images are courtesy of SkySafari Pro 6.