Some daily events in the changing sky for March 27 – April 4.
Friday, March 27
Saturday, March 28
Sunday, March 29
Monday, March 30
Tuesday, March 31
Wednesday, April 1
Thursday, April 2
Friday, April 3
Saturday, April 4
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the even more detailed Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand and a curious mind." Without these, they note, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Venus (magnitude –4.0) is at inferior conjunction on March 27th. But even though it's close to the Sun, this is an exciting time for Venus watchers! In a telescope it's easily seen as a hairline crescent — because at this conjunction, Venus passes a full 8° to the Sun's north.
Telescopically, Venus is best seen in full midday daylight. Just don't let your telescope accidentally point at the Sun and blind you! Safest is to observe in the shadow of a building that will continue to block the Sun from view. For more on Venus's especially favorable conjunction phenomena this year, see our article "Venus at Its 8-Year Best".
And already Venus is becoming visible very low in the sky of dawn. Look for it barely above the eastern horizon 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise. Don't confuse it with bright Jupiter very far to the upper right. Find your local sunrise time from our online almanac (if you're on daylight saving time like most of North America, make sure the Daylight Saving Time box is checked).
Mars (magnitude +1.2) is very low in the sunrise glow. Using binoculars, you can try looking for it just above the east-southeast horizon, far to the lower left of much brighter Jupiter, about 30 minutes before sunrise. Good luck.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.0, in Capricornus this year) shines low in the southeast during early dawn.
Saturn (magnitude +0.6, near the hind foot of Leo) shines in the east-southeast at dusk. It's highest in the south around 11 p.m. Look for Regulus shining 17° (nearly two fist-widths at arm's length) to Saturn's upper right in early evening, and more directly to its right later at night.
In a telescope, Saturn's rings are 3½° from edge on. The rings will open to a maximum of 4° in May, then will close to exactly edge-on next September 4th — when, unfortunately, Saturn will be out of sight practically in conjunction with the Sun.
Uranus (6th magnitude) is hidden behind the glare of the Sun.
Neptune (8th magnitude) is deep in the glow of dawn, far in the background of Jupiter.
Pluto (14th magnitude, in northwestern Sagittarius) is in the southeast before dawn.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
To be sure to get the current Sky at a Glance, bookmark this URL:
If pictures fail to load, refresh the page. If they still fail to load, change the 1 at the end of the URL to any other character and try again.