The Moon Joins Mars in the Night Sky
These few nights, stargazers will have a lot to observe. Traversing the constellation Taurus, the Moon will meet bright Mars, while the Pleiades star cluster and the ruddy star Aldebaran will shine close to the astronomical duo. In today’s article, we’ll tell you how and when to see these brilliant celestial objects and the beautiful constellation hosting them.
Conjunction of the Moon and Mars
On March 19, 2021, at 1:46 p.m. EDT (17:47 GMT), the conjunction of the Moon and Mars will occur: our natural satellite and the Red Planet will share the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, as seen from the Earth. The lunar crescent and Mars will meet in the constellation Taurus, shining at magnitudes of -11.3 and 1.2, respectively.
Start your observation on March 18 in the evening, when the Moon will begin its journey through the constellation Taurus, passing close to the Pleiades star cluster. At the beginning of the month, we’ve already told you about the closest conjunction of Mars and the Pleiades since the 20th century. Also known as the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades are often visible with an unaided eye, but binoculars will help you to get a better look at these beautiful stars.
A day later, on March 19, you’ll see our natural satellite shining between Mars and the reddish star Aldebaran. This brightest star in the constellation Taurus is traditionally associated with the fiery eye of the Bull. Aldebaran shines a little bit brighter than Mars as the star has a visual magnitude of about 0.85.
The Moon will reach its first quarter on March 21, 2021, at 10:41 a.m. EDT (14:41 GMT). By that time, it will have left the constellation Taurus to move into the constellation Gemini. The half-illuminated lunar disk will shine brightly in the evening sky and set around midnight local time.
The brilliant Moon is easy to find in the skydome, while Mars, the Pleiades, and Aldebaran might be quite challenging to spot. The stargazing guide Star Walk 2 will help you to locate beautiful celestial bodies in the sky above you: simply write the name of an object you’d like to see in the search field, select the corresponding result, and enjoy its view!
The constellation Taurus
Taurus is one of the most beautiful constellations of the night sky. Its distinctive shape has been recognized since antiquity. In Greek mythology, this constellation was associated with the god Zeus who turned into a white bull in an attempt to gain the favor of the Phoenician princess Europa.
In addition to Aldebaran and the Pleiades, it hosts many other spectacular sky objects. The brilliant stars forming the V-shaped Bull’s face are prominent members of the Hyades star cluster. Lying at a distance of 150 light-years from the Earth, the Hyades is the closest star cluster to our planet except for the Ursa Major Moving Group.
The stars Elnath, also known as Nath or Beta (β) Tauri, and Zeta (ζ) Tauri form two horns of the Bull. Having a magnitude of 1.65, Elnath is the second brightest star in the constellation. As the star sits close to the neighboring constellation Auriga, sometimes it’s designated as Gamma (γ) Aurigae. Dimmer Zeta (ζ) Tauri shines at a magnitude of 3.0, which is bright enough to be observed with the unaided eye.
One more Taurus’s amazing object is the Crab Nebula (also designated as M1 or NGC 1952). In 1054, Chinese astronomers noticed a “guest star” in the constellation Taurus, which was visible in the sky for about a month. Today we know that the early skywatchers observed a supernova explosion, which created this breathtaking nebula. With a magnitude of 8.4, the Crab Nebula can’t be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars will reveal this beautiful sky object under favorable conditions.
Wishing you clear skies and happy stargazing!