As we transition between seasons, Orion rides high in the evening sky — easily found by spotting the row of three bright stars in his Belt.
This is a month of transition. Clocks will change around the world, and we northerners switch to Daylight or Summer time — on March 8th in the U.S. and Canada but on the 29th across Europe. A second transition comes on March 20th at 6:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, when Earth reaches one of the two equinox points in its year-long orbit. Equinox comes from the Latin word aequinoctium, meaning “equal nights.” On the equinox, the Sun rises due east and sets due west no matter where you are.
Once the Moon leaves the evening sky (it's full on the 5th), the view above will feature Venus well up in the west, Jupiter high up in the east, and the bright stars of winter in between. Sirius is the real "star" of the night sky this time of year, but as dusk deepens look due south to spot the mighty constellation Orion, the Hunter. Its two brightest stars are icy-white Rigel, which marks Orion’s lower-right foot, and orange-red Betelgeuse, his upper-left shoulder.
Midway between them, look for the three-star row of Orion’s Belt. Each member of this iconic trio has a name: Alnitak, on the left, means “the girdle” in Arabic; Alnilam, in the middle, translates as “string of pearls”; and Mintaka means “the belt.”
This is just a sample of the many March stargazing sights that await you even if you're just stepping outside for a casual look around. To get familiar with the bright stars and planets overhead, download our 7-minute-long stargazing podcast below.
There's no better guide to what's going on in nighttime sky than the March issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.