What to See in the Night Sky for March 2022

Get ready for spring, a morning dance of planets, and a rogue rocket.

winter night sky

David Clapp / Getty Images

And just like that, it’s already the third month of the year. How are you? Ready for spring? In celestial terms, 2022 is off to a quiet start. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that’s not such a bad thing. Evenings are dark, devoid of the incessant noises of warmer months, clear and cold. It’s a great time to reflect, breathe deeply, and enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons. So get out there and revel in the quiet while you can. Summer is coming.

Your Last (Likely) Month for Crisp Viewing Conditions

I know, I posted this last month, but seriously, March is likely your last month to see the night sky with extreme clarity. Why? Cold air holds less moisture than warm air, resulting in crystal-clear conditions in winter. Summer nights on the contrary are generally heavy with moisture and hazier. Combine this with long nights (at least until daylight saving time crashes the party) and you’ve got some great opportunities for you or the whole family to enjoy the night sky well before bedtime. 

A New Moon Kicks Off Dark Skies (March 2)

There’s no better way to enjoy the crystal-clear viewing conditions of March than with an early new moon keeping light pollution (at least from the heavens) to a minimum. If you want a dark sky target, try finding the Triangulum Galaxy. Located approximately 2.73 million light-years from Earth, it is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye. To locate it, head out when skies are completely dark and look for it in the constellation Andromeda. The Triangulum Galaxy is a bit notorious among astronomers for being difficult to spot on your first try, so if you own a pair of binoculars, bring those along to help enhance the view.

Like the Andromeda Galaxy, our closest galactic neighbor, Triangulum may one day collide and combine with our own Milky Way. Other scenarios (such as this NASA animation) have it orbiting around the amalgamated remains of Andromeda and the Milky Way. The good news is, we have several billion years to prepare for either outcome.

Someone’s Rocket is Going to Slam into the Moon (March 4) 

When we first wrote about the rogue rocket destined to collide with the moon’s far side on March 4, all signs pointed to it being the massive upper stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched in 2015. After more observations poured in, the initial researcher behind the discovery retracted his SpaceX claim and instead submitted his new belief that it’s a booster from China’s 2014 Chang’e-5 T1 mission. China, however, is denying it’s responsible for what will become the moon’s newest crater, saying that particular booster burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere a year after launch. 

So what will hit the moon on March 4? Insert your best shrug emoji here. As of right now, no one knows (and we may never know)—a somewhat terrifying reality that the world needs to do a better job of tracking its space junk. Especially space junk capable of creating a crater on the moon measuring 65 feet in diameter. 

A Great Opportunity to Spot Uranus with Binoculars (March 6) 

At more than 1.8 billion miles from Earth, Uranus can be a bit problematic to spot from Earth with the naked eye. Fortunately, on March 6, a crescent moon can help guide the way. After sunset and before 10 p.m. EST, when the pair will set below the horizon, grab a pair of binoculars and point them towards the moon. According to EarthSky, the dusty blue disc of Uranus will be located toward the top of the binocular field.

Daylight Saving Time Is Coming for Your Sleep (March 13) 

Okay, so it’s not strictly a night sky event, but the arrival of “Spring Forward” with Daylight Saving Time on March 13 at 2 a.m. EST does cut into opportunities for enjoyment of celestial events during easy waking hours. As David Dickinson of Universe Today explains

“For astronomers, the shift to DST means that true darkness falls much later in the evening, marking the abrupt end of the school star party season not long after March. You don’t have to go far north to about latitude 45 degrees to find areas where it doesn’t get dark until about 11PM local towards mid-summer.”

As Davidson points out, we do gain a bit of extra darkness in the morning hours, but even that lasts only so long as we march in summer. Whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, coffee is an astronomer’s best friend going forward.

The Gamma Normids Blaze Down Under (March 14-15)

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, March 14-15 marks the peak of the γ-Normid Meteor Shower. While not one of the more prolific annual showers, with observed shooting stars averaging about six per hour, they do dazzle—with descriptions of swift, orange-colored meteors. In some years, as high as 20% in 1986, Normid meteors also feature trains or glowing streaks left behind as they race across the sky. For best viewing, look to the shower’s radiant point in the small constellation Norma.

A Morning Dance of Venus, Mars, and Saturn (Starting March 15)

For those who enjoy some pre-dawn action, Saturn will emerge from below the east-southeast horizon the last two weeks in March and slowly move toward a grouping with Venus and Mars. According to EarthSky, by March 24 you should be able to spot all three in a kind of “flat isosceles triangle.”

Gaze Upon the Full ‘Worm’ Moon (March 16)

Of all the nicknames given to describing full moons throughout the year, “worm” may be one of the cringiest. Nonetheless, that’s the most popular designation for March’s full lunar phase, which reaches its peak illumination around 3:20 a.m. EDT on the evening of March 16. The Farmer’s Almanac reports that the slimy moniker is in recognition of the emergence of earthworms to mark the early days of spring. But you know what? I think it’s time for a rebranding strategy. 

For instance, the Ojibwe, the most populous Indigenous tribe in North America, have long referred to March’s full moon as the “Sugar Moon,” a more appetizing association in recognition of sugar maple trees producing vast quantities of delicious sap. Some other names include the “Goose Moon,” (Cree), “Crow Comes Back Moon” (northern Ojibwe), and the relatable “Sore Eyes Moon” (Dakota, Lakota, Assiniboine) from the reflection of moonlight off snow cover. 

But hey, earthworms are vitally important to our ecosystems, so maybe giving them a bit of recognition isn’t such a bad idea. Keeping shining on, you beautiful Worm Moon.

Celebrate the Vernal Equinox (Mar. 20)

While it’s still a bit early to put away the snow shovels and bury the winter coats in storage, the vernal equinox is nonetheless a promising milestone in our movement toward warmer weather and increasingly longer days. For those down in the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite holds true. Wherever you are, the vernal equinox will officially begin on March 20 at approximately 11:33 a.m. EST. On this date, the sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west, with sunlight striking both hemispheres equally. It’s also one of only two dates throughout the year, when both day and night are equal in length.

View Article Sources
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  3. "NASA's Hubble Shows Milky Way is Destined for Head-On Collision." NASA, 2021.

  4. "The Planet Uranus." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  5. Kronk, Gary W., Meteor Showers: An Annotated Catalog. Springer Science and Business Media, 2013.