Skip to Content Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Search

The Scitech Discovery Shop is closed on the 22 and 23 of May. The shop will be open from the 24 May.

The Scitech Discovery Shop is closed on the 22 and 23 of May. The shop will be open from the 24 May.

Mobile header. Includes: optional ticker, search and main navigation

Open 9:30am - 4pm What's on today

Find us

Call us 08 9215 0700

Visit us
City West Centre
Corner Railway Street & Sutherland Street
West Perth, Western Australia 6005

Get directions

Site header. Includes: search, main navigation and secondary navigation

You have reached the primary navigation
You have reached the main content region of the page.

The casual observer

March brings us into the latter part of Bunuru, the second summer. The evening sky shows Orion and friends in the northwest making for great evening viewing before setting around midnight.

In the southeast, Centaurus is fully visible in the evening sky as it surrounds the Southern Cross on three sides.

Image: Centaurus and the Southern Cross are in the southest during March evenings.

Credit: Stellarium

The Autumn equinox occurs on Mar 20. On this day the Sun will pass directly over the equator, and we will have roughly equal amounts of day and night everywhere on Earth.

Image: Visualisation of the geometry of an equinox.

Credit: Time and Date

International Pi Day occurs on Mar 14 (3/14 in freedom units). Don’t miss the chance to celebrate this mathematical nicety.

You might hear about a partial lunar eclipse taking place on the evening of Mar 24 into Mar 25. Unfortunately, this is not visible from Western Australia. People over east will be able to catch a glimpse, but even then, they will only catch the end of it as the Moon rises over the eastern horizon.

Be sure to get a glimpse of Jupiter in the northwest during the evenings as well. It is approaching the western horizon and will be gone from the evening sky in a couple of months.

ISS sightings from Perth

The International Space Station passes overhead multiple times a day. Most of these passes are too faint to see but a couple of notable sightings* are:

Date, time Appears Max Height Disappears Magnitude Duration
7 Mar 7:18 PM 10° above SSW 73° 54° above ENE -3.9 4 min
14 Mar 05:19 AM 20° above WNW 32° 10° above SSE -3.0 4.5 min

Table: Times and dates to spot the ISS from Perth

Source: Heavens above, Spot the Station

*Note: These predictions are only accurate a few days in advance. Check the sources linked for more precise predictions on the day of your observations.

Phases of the Moon

Last Quarter

March 3

New Moon

March 10

First Quarter

March 17

Full Moon

March 25

Last Quarter

March 3

Dates of interest

  1. International Pi Day

    March 14

  2. Moon Near Jupiter

    March 14

  3. Moon near Pleiades

    March 15

  4. Autumn equinox

    March 20

  5. Soyuz launching crew to the ISS

    March 21

  6. Venus and Saturn close in morning sky

    March 22

Planets to look for

If we’re being honest, the planets aren’t really trying very hard this month. Venus is visible in the east before sunrise for the first couple of weeks of March but is rapidly approaching the horizon and will be lost in the glare of the Sun by the end of the month. Be sure to get one last look at it before it disappears.

Saturn and Mars also join Venus in the easterly morning sky. Mars hovers about a handspan above the horizon all month while Saturn climbs up from the horizon as the month goes on. It has a close encounter with Venus on Mar 22, the two will be separated by about half a degree, but they will be very low in the sky when this happens.

Image: Mars, Saturn and Venus in the eastern AM sky on Mar 22.

Credit: Stellarium

Mercury is lost in the glare of the Sun most of the time. In the late month it is just barely visible in the west around sunset, but you will probably need to use an app like Stellarium to show you where to look.

Jupiter still makes for decent viewing in the northwest after sunset. Setting about 10pm, it is getting towards the end of its season of good night sky viewing. By the end of the month, it will be noticeably lower on the horizon so be sure to get a good look while it’s still higher up.

Constellation of the month

Carina the Keel

Carina is a medium sized constellation in the southern sky and represents the keel of the Argo Navis, a once much larger constellation that has since been separated into Carina, Puppis and Vela. The false cross, by itself not a constellation, appears as an asterism in the larger Carina constellation.

Image: Carina with Canopus labelled and the false cross in green.

Credit: Stellarium

The main reason to look at Carina this month is to look at its brightest star Canopus. With a magnitude of –0.74, Canopus is the second brightest star in the night sky and located only a handspan away from the brighter Sirius of Canis Major. A white supergiant star, Canopus is about 10000 times brighter than the Sun and has a temperature of 7400K. Its great distance of 310 light-years dims its apparent brightness significantly for us, allowing the much more modest Sirius, with its 25 solar luminosities and 8 light-year proximity, to take top spot for night sky star brightness.

The real reason to pay attention to Canopus is to ponder the epic film Dune Part 2. In the canon of the Dune scifi universe, Arrakis is the third planet orbiting around Canopus. You can look toward Canopus at night and contemplate the epic conflict taking place on this spice world. Back to the real world, astronomers have not found any evidence of planets around Canopus.

Object for the small telescope

The asteroid Juno, often called (3) Juno because it was the third asteroid ever discovered, reaches opposition this month. At a magnitude of about 9, it presents a challenging target for the keen observer as it moves through Leo into Sextans and back into Leo again over the course of the month. You can use the star d Leo as a reference to get you most of the way there.  

 Image: The location of (3) Juno on Mar 3 as it approaches the border of Sextans 

Credit: Stellarium 

Juno is a stony-type asteroid, and being elliptical in shape about 200x250x300km across is one of the largest known asteroids. Since it is not spherical it is not classified as a dwarf planet and is instead called a ‘minor planet’, though interestingly from its discovery in 1804 until the mid 1850s it was listed as a planet.  

High resolution imagery reveals an irregular surface and a misshapen object. 

Image: Juno up close 

Credit: VLT/SPHERE/ZIMPOL 

Two out of three ain’t bad.

This year has so far seen three attempted Moon landings by robotic spacecraft, with varying degrees of success.

The first main event was the Astrobotic Peregrine lander. Onboard it carried a number of small rovers from NASA and Mexico as well as radiation detectors, spectrometers and other NASA payloads for studying the lunar environment up close. The mission was part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), a program where NASA provides funding for business and industry to develop spacecraft to carry NASA science equipment to the Moon. Unfortunately, while the Jan 8 launch was a success, shortly thereafter the spacecraft experienced a propellant leak that was pushing the spacecraft off course, requiring even more fuel to counteract. It was later discovered that the problem was likely caused by a valve that failed to close.

Image: Astrobotic Peregrine Lander before launch.

Credit: Astrobotic, NASA/Isaac Watson

Technically the spacecraft made it to the Moon but could only wave at it as it went past and fell back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere off the east coast of Australia.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was next to have a go. Their Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission actually launched in September 2023 and took a long slow trajectory to the Moon to save fuel. After reaching the Moon, it entered lunar orbit before attempting a landing on Jan 19. Interestingly, the spacecraft was intended to land on its side, which is exactly what it did…before rolling over onto its roof, pointing its solar panel away from the Sun at the same time. The lander also ejected two tiny rovers before landing that were able to image the landing.

Image: SLIM on the Moon, in an unintended orientation.

Credit: JAXA

Anybody who has ever played Kerbal Space Program noticed the similarities straight away.

Image: Mun or bust! Life sometimes does imitate art.

Credit: KSP

After a tense few days wait, the Moon had moved far enough to illuminate the solar panels and the spacecraft came back to life on Jan 29 and it was operational for several Earth days before being put into sleep mode in preparation of the coming freezing lunar night. On Feb 25 JAXA confirmed the rover had survived the lunar night and was back in communication. Overall, the mission is considered a success, since its primary goal was to demonstrate a precision soft landing on the Moon within 100m of its planned target, something it did achieve.

Last cab off the ranks was the Intuitive Machines Odysseus lander, also part of the CLPS program. This launched on Feb 15 and attempted a landing at the lunar south pole on Feb 22. During approach to landing, it was discovered that the laser rangefinders intended to be used for measuring approach to the Moon were not operational, so some hasty problem solving was required to interface with other lasers located on one of the scientific payloads to perform the task.

For reasons yet undetermined, one of the landing legs broke upon touchdown and the lander ended up on its side, still operational. NASA and Intuitive Machines have made the most of the situation, still being able to collect data from the 6 NASA payloads on board.

Image: The broken leg (left of centre) that caused the lander to be lopsided.

Credit: Intuitive Machines

The lander has since been put into sleep mode in preparation for the lunar night and attempts at communication will recommence in several weeks.

Ultimately, two of the three missions so far this year have achieved a soft landing on the Moon, and as a great poet once said, that ain’t bad.

 

Array ( )

Upon clicking the "Book Now" or "Buy Gift Card" buttons a new window will open prompting contact information and payment details.

Click here to go back to the top of the page.
Back to Top