Astronomy News for the Month of March 2021

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For amateur radio operators and scanner enthusiasts, when in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky Mountain Radio League's WØWYX 146.94 MHz and 449.825 MHz repeaters.
Due to hardware issues, links with the Allstar node, Echolink and the Cripple Creek repeater are down until further notice.
The net meets on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Mountain Time (US).

Obtain your Amateur Radio (Ham) License or your General Radio Operator's License (GROL)! Visit the South Metro VE Team website for more information. The South Metro VE Team provides test sessions on the 1st Saturday of each month at our new Eagle Street Facility, The City of Centennial, 7272 South Eagle Street, Centennial, Colorado 80112-4244 at 9am.
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 Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part
of the JPL Solar System Ambassador/NASA Outreach program.

For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador website.
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In this Newsletter...

Background screen credits: NGC5775
Imaged March 21/22, 2001
using the 16" Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope
as part of the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program.

"This month you'll find several planets hiding in twilight. Careful observers can even follow Venus (pictured here) and Jupiter into daylight."
Astronomy Magazine, March 2021, P. 32. Jamie Cooper

The Month At-A-Glance
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.

14 day moon

The Moon



Moon/Planet Pairs

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of ~0.5°.

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The Planets & Dwarf Planets

Planetary Reports generated by "TheSkyX" software. These reports provide predicted data for the planets for the first of each month for the current year. The rise and set times for the Sun and the Moon for each day of the month as well as meteor shower radiants are also included in the reports. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

Planetary Highlights for March

"During March, Mars lingers in the evening sky as a wonderful bright object as it crosses Taurus. Most of the planetary action is now in the predawn sky, with three planets congregating there: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury. Watch their relative dance as they jostle positions each morning." Astronomy Magazine, March 2021, P. 32.


Mercury is at greatest western elongation (27°) on the 6th. Mercury rises at 5:21 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:16 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury about 30 minutes before sunrise. Mercury moves from the constellation of Capricornus into Aquarius shining at magnitude 0.3 on the 1st.


Is in superior conjunction on the 26th. Venus rises at 6:25 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:55 a.m. by month's end. After conjunction, Venus returns to the evening sky, but will be lost in the evening twilight glow until next month. Look for Venus in the east before sunrise about 30 minutes before sunrise during the first 3 weeks of March. Venus moves from the constellation of Aquarius into Pisces shining at magnitude -3.9 on the 15th.


Daylight Saving Time begins for most of the U.S. at 2 a.m. local on the 14th.
Vernal equinox occurs at 5:37 a.m. EDT on the 20th.


Sets at 12:24 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:52 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mars to the west soon after sunset and follow it to the horizon as the evening progresses. Mars is in the constellation of a href="">Taurus shining at magnitude 1.1.


Rises at 5:32 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:49 a.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter low in the east before sunrise. Jupiter should be easier to spot now that it is rising earlier. Jupiter is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude -2.0.


Rises at 5:07 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:15 a.m. by month's end. Like Jupiter, Saturn is also easier to observe this month. Saturn is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 0.6.


Sets at 10:30 p.m. on the 1st and around 9:35 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible in the evening. Look to the south-southwest soon after sunset to spot Uranus. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.9.


Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 10th. Neptune sets at 6:33 p.m. on the 1st. Neptune moves to the morning sky after conjunction. Neptune will rise about 6:01 a.m. by month's end. Neptune will be lost in the twilight glow of sunsets and sunrises all month. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets


Sets at 7:28 p.m. on the 1st and around 7:27 p.m. by month's end. Ceres will be difficult to spot as it too is lost in the evening twilight glow and very close to the western horizon all month. Ceres moves from the constellation of Pisces into Cetus shining at magnitude 9.1.


Rises at 4:30 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:30 a.m. by month's end. Pluto is visible in the early morning sky before dawn. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 15.2.

As always, good luck at spotting Neptune, Ceres and Pluto, a large telescope and dark skies will be needed.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • There are a few minor meteor showers but none that produce rates much higher than 2-5 per hour, except the Gamma Normids that extend over the period of March 11 to 21, with the maximum occurring on March 16. The maximum rate reaches about 5-9 meteors per hour.

    Meteor Shower Radiant Report

    For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.

    Meteor Scatter (or Meteor burst communications) - "is a radio propagation mode that exploits the ionized trails of meteors during atmospheric entry to establish brief communications paths between radio stations up to 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) apart." Tune your shortwave or your HF amateur radio to 54.310 MHz SSB and see if you can hear any pings. Try other frequencies as well... 6m FT8 digital - 50.313 Mhz & 50.276 Mhz, JP-65 digital mode and the carrier frequencies of the lower VHF bands for TV channels 2, 3 & 4.

    Meteor Rx How-To by Terry Bullett (WØASP)

  • Comets

  • "Waking up from its thousand-year sleep, Comet C/2020 R4 (ATLAS) is competing for the top of the telescopic comet list this spring. It's visiting from the Kuiper belt, having traveled some four times Pluto's distance to reach us. The comet was discovered September 12 by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System search program (also known as ATLAS).

    Nicely timed to cap off a long night of deep-sky Messier marathoning midmonth, ATLAS floats near M72." Astronomy Magazine, March, 2021, P. 38.

  • For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets, visit the Observable Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's webpage.

  • Eclipses

    Solar Eclipses

  • No solar eclipse activity this month.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Look for Mars and Uranus in the evening.
  • Look for Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus in the morning before sunrise.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Eunomia is in the constellation of Gemini.
    • Amphitrite is in the constellation of Leo.
    • Vesta is at opposition on the 4th in the constellation of Leo.
    • Metis is in the constellation of Virgo.

    • Information about the Minor Planets can be found at the Minor Planet Observer website.

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
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    Subscriber Gallery

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    Member Meteor Sightings

    In this section I will post meteor, fireball, etc sightings that have been published on the American Meteor Society's web site. I want to make this an active section of the web pages and newsletter and would like to publish the links to member sightings. If you have any published sightings, please provide me with the links and I will post them here for all to enjoy.

    Event ID Date/Time Location Observer Link
    3587-2015 2015-11-22 17:38 MST CO Kevin S 3587aw
    3829-2015 2015-12-05 18:06 MST CO Burness A 3829a
    3871-2015 2015-11-13 01:55 MST CO Charles N 3871a
    986-2020 2020-02-21 22:20 MST CO Lukas S 986
    3716-2020 2020-07-24 23:22 MST CO Lukas S 3716

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)

    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    February 25, 2021
    Testing Proves Its Worth With Successful Mars Parachute Deployment

    Full Article & Images

    "The giant canopy that helped land Perseverance on Mars was tested here on Earth at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

    Test. Test again. Test again.

    Testing spacecraft components prior to flight is vital for a successful mission.

    Rarely do you get a do-over with a spacecraft after it launches, especially those bound for another planet. You need to do everything possible to get it right the first time.

    Three successful sounding rocket missions from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in 2017 and 2018 to test a supersonic parachute proved their worth with the successful landing of the Perseverance mission on the Red Planet.

    After traveling 293 million miles (472 million kilometers), the supersonic parachutes, designed to slow the rover's descent to the planet's surface, successfully deployed and inflated. They made the smooth touchdown of Perseverance possible."

    Read the latest news and discoveries from JPL's dozens of active space missions exploring Earth, the solar system and worlds beyond.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions.

    For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador web site.

    Juno - January 13, 2021
    NASA's Juno Mission Expands Into the Future

    Full Article & Images

    "New Horizons roared into the skies aboard a powerful Atlas V rocket at 2 p.m. EST on Jan. 19, 2006. It separated from its solid-fuel kick motor 44 minutes, 53 seconds after launch, and mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., where the spacecraft was designed and built, received the first radio signals from New Horizons a little more than five minutes later. The radio communications, sent through NASA's Deep Space Network antennas in Canberra, Australia, confirmed to controllers that the spacecraft was healthy and ready to begin initial operations."

    Images from NASA's JunoCam.

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: Juno and Mission Juno.

    The public can follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

    New Horizons - November 4, 2020
    The PI's Perspective: New Plans Afoot

    Full Article & Images

    "New Horizons is healthy and continuing to send data back from the flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) Arrokoth back in late 2018 and early 2019, even as it speeds deeper into the Kuiper Belt and farther from the Earth and the Sun.

    By next spring, New Horizons will be 50 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is — only the fifth operating spacecraft to reach that distance. But as far as we've come, there's much more ahead! We plan to upgrade the spacecraft system and instrument software aboard New Horizons to enhance the mission's scientific capabilities and to search for new KBO targets to study or even fly by. I'll describe both of those plans just below."

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store.

    For more information on the New Horizons mission - the first mission to the ninth planet - visit the New Horizons home page.

    TESS - February 12, 2021
    NASA's TESS Discovers New Worlds in a River of Young Stars

    Full Article & Images

    "Using observations from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an international team of astronomers has discovered a trio of hot worlds larger than Earth orbiting a much younger version of our Sun called TOI 451. The system resides in the recently discovered Pisces-Eridanus stream, a collection of stars less than 3% the age of our solar system that stretches across one-third of the sky.

    The planets were discovered in TESS images taken between October and December 2018. Follow-up studies of TOI 451 and its planets included observations made in 2019 and 2020 using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which has since been retired, as well as many ground-based facilities. Archival infrared data from NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite -- collected between 2009 and 2011 under its previous moniker, WISE -- suggests the system retains a cool disk of dust and rocky debris. Other observations show that TOI 451 likely has two distant stellar companions circling each other far beyond the planets."

    For more information on the TESS mission, visit the Latest Tess Stories page.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions

    Visit JPL's mission pages for current status.

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    Mars Missions

    Be A Martian

    Mars website mobile version is here!

    Mars Daily Weather Report

    Mars on the Go! NASA Be A Martian Mobile App
    If you want the latest news as it happens, try our Be A Martian app.
    Download on Mobile Devices
    Android | iPhone | Windows Phone

    JMARS is an acronym that stands for Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing. It is a geospatial information system (GIS) developed by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility to provide mission planning and data-analysis tools to NASA's orbiters, instrument team members, students of all ages, and the general public.

    Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

    "The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) began in 1948, a decade before NASA. We are the world's only research institute to have sent instruments to all eight planets and Pluto.

    LASP combines all aspects of space exploration through our expertise in science, engineering, mission operations, and scientific data analysis. As part of CU, LASP also works to educate and train the next generation of space scientists, engineers and mission operators by integrating undergraduate and graduate students into working teams. Our students take their unique experiences with them into government or industry, or remain in academia to continue the cycle of exploration.

    LASP is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    LASP/MAVEN - February 14, 2021
    Hope Probe returns its first image of Mars capturing Olympus Mons at Sunrise

    Full Article & Images

    "The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, achieved a major milestone on 9 February 2021 when it entered into orbit around Mars. It will spend one Martian Year (about two Earth years) orbiting the red planet gathering crucial science data."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars 2020 - Perseverance - February 24, 2021
    NASA's Perseverance Rover Gives High-Definition Panoramic View of Landing Site

    Full Article & Images

    "A 360-degree panorama taken by the rover's Mastcam-Z instrument will be discussed during a public video chat this Thursday.

    NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover got its first high-definition look around its new home in Jezero Crater on Feb. 21, after rotating its mast, or “head,” 360 degrees, allowing the rover's Mastcam-Z instrument to capture its first panorama after touching down on the Red Planet on February 18. It was the rover's second panorama ever, as the rover's Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, also located on the mast, captured a 360-degree view on Feb. 20."

    Learn more about the upcoming Mars 2020 (Perseverance) mission.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - January 12, 2021
    NASA's Curiosity Rover Reaches Its 3,000th Day on Mars

    Full Article & Images

    "As the rover has continued to ascend Mount Sharp, it's found distinctive benchlike rock formations.

    It's been 3,000 Martian days, or sols, since Curiosity touched down on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012, and the rover keeps making new discoveries during its gradual climb up Mount Sharp, the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain it has been exploring since 2014. Geologists were intrigued to see a series of rock "benches" in the most recent panorama from the mission."

    Follow the Mars Curiosity rover on Foursquare.

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare.

      Mars Rover Landing - Free for the Xbox 360 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - October 1, 2020
    AI Is Helping Scientists Discover Fresh Craters on Mars

    Full Article & Image

    "It's the first time machine learning has been used to find previously unknown craters on the Red Planet.

    Sometime between March 2010 and May 2012, a meteor streaked across the Martian sky and broke into pieces, slamming into the planet's surface. The resulting craters were relatively small — just 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter. The smaller the features, the more difficult they are to spot using Mars orbiters. But in this case — and for the first time — scientists spotted them with a little extra help: artificial intelligence (AI)."

    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - June 8, 2020
    Three New Views of Mars' Moon Phobos

    Full Article and Images

    "Three new views of the Martian moon Phobos have been captured by NASA's Odyssey orbiter. Taken this past winter and this spring, they capture the moon as it drifts into and out of Mars' shadow.

    The orbiter's infrared camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), has been used to measure temperature variations across the surface of Phobos that provide insight into the composition and physical properties of the moon. Further study could help settle a debate over whether Phobos, which is about 16 miles (25 kilometers) across, is a captured asteroid or an ancient chunk of Mars that was blasted off the surface by an impact."

    Daily Mars Odyssey THEMIS Images
    Can be found at the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) website.

    The Odyssey data are available through a new online access system established by the Planetary Data System.

    Visit the Mars Odyssey Mission page.

    Journey to Mars - InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars - February 12, 2021
    InSight Is Meeting the Challenge of Winter on Dusty Mars

    Full Article and Images

    "As dust collects on the solar panels and winter comes to Elysium Planitia, the team is following a plan to reduce science operations in order to keep the lander safe.

    NASA's InSight lander recently received a mission extension for another two years, giving it time to detect more quakes, dust devils, and other phenomena on the surface of Mars. While the mission team plans to continue collecting data well into 2022, the increasing dustiness of the spacecraft's solar panels and the onset of the Martian winter led to a decision to conserve power and temporarily limit the operation of its instruments."

    Interactive selection of raw images taken by the cameras aboard InSight.

    Learn more about the InSight Mission.

    Mars Missions Status

    New Mars missions are being planned to include several new rover and sample collection missions. Check out the Mars Missions web page and the Mars Exploration page.

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    Astronomy Links and Other Space News

    (If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel free to submit it.)

    Green Laser

    Colorado Astronomy Links

    Radio Astronomy Links

    Other Astronomy Links

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    Astronomical Lexicon

    Definitions of astronomical terms. Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

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    UT Logo

    Read the Universe Today Newsletter by clicking on the logo.

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    Acknowledgments and References

    Much of the information in this newsletter is from Astronomy® Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports, the Internet, "Meteor Showers - A descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk, Sky & Telescope web pages, and other astronomical sources that I have stashed on my bookshelves.

    The author will accept any suggestions, constructive criticisms, and corrections. Please feel free to send me any new links or articles to share as well. I will try to accommodate any reasonable requests. Please feel free to send questions, comments, criticisms, or donations to the email address listed below. Enjoy!

    More Acknowledgements and References

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