Supermoons and Mercury: What to look out for in the spring night skies

Astronomer, Neil Norman from Hadleigh

Astronomer, Neil Norman reveals spring dates for stargazing in his latest column - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

What should you be looking out for this spring in the night skies? Hadleigh astronomer Neil Norman shares opportunities to spot the illusively small planet Mercury and when to see so called 'Supermoons'. 

We are now heading towards spring, with the Vernal equinox occurring on March 20, when the days will become longer than night. British Summer time will begin on March 28.

The first event worth looking out for is on March 3, when the planet Mars will be located close to and below the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters star cluster.

The planet is now getting dimmer as it and the Earth move apart but this will make a nice colour contrast photograph with the red planet shining in the vicinity of the ice blue stars.

March 5 at 6.15am will see those early risers the planet Mercury close to the planet Jupiter in the eastern sky before sunrise.

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Although Mercury is a naked eye object, it is often hard to locate due to it never rising far from twilight, so those with a modest pair of binoculars will be well equipped to see this illusive little planet. March 10 will also aid those hunting for Mercury.

Very low on the south-eastern horizon and a narrow crescent moon will be located just below both Mercury and Jupiter. Of the two planets, Mercury will be the smaller of the two. Again, a pair of binoculars will be most helpful.

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On the nights of March 18 and 19 the moon will be the focus of attention as it will be located near the Pleiades to the upper right and Aldebaran, the brightest star of Taurus, the Hyades star cluster and planet Mars all located to the upper left of the Moon. 

Again, this will make a wonderful photo opportunity and all pictures will be welcomed.

The first Supermoon of the year will take place in mid March

The first Supermoon of the year will take place in mid March - Credit: Graham Meadows

On March 19, the moon will be very close to Mars which will appear to the upper right of the moon. And finally for the month, the first of four Supermoons that will occur during this year.

It is a term that astronomers dislike greatly, as it means nothing more than the moon being full at its closest approach to Earth in its orbit.The size difference between a Supermoon and regular full moon is negligible to say the least.

Those who are interested though should note that this year's best Supermoon, when it will appear the biggest and brightest, will fall on May 26.

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