March 2024: What Planet is Next to the Moon Tonight?
In March 2024, the Moon meets Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars in the sky. Learn what planet is closest to the Moon from this article.
- What is the dot next to the Moon tonight?
- What do astronomers call the approach of the Moon to the planet?
- Planets near the Moon in March 2024
- Bottom line
What is the dot next to the Moon tonight?
From March 4 to 10, the Moon will visit the constellations Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Capricornus, and Aquarius. This week, the planets Venus (mag -3.8) and Mars (mag 1.3) will be the brightest dots near the Moon. As the New Moon occurs this week (on March 10), the lunar crescent will be thin and hard to observe. To make sure what celestial object you’re looking at, use the Sky Tonight app. Now let's take a closer look at the planets near the Moon this month.
What do astronomers call the approach of the Moon to the planet?
In this article, you'll come across several types of celestial events. They all involve the relative positions of the Moon and celestial objects and occur close together in time. However, they differ in detail. Here is what each one means.
Closest approach (appulse)
Closest approach or appulse happens when two celestial objects have the smallest apparent distance as seen from the Earth. For the Moon and planets, appulse often takes place close to conjunction.
Conjunction occurs when two celestial objects have the same apparent right ascension or ecliptic longitude in the sky. In everyday language, the terms “conjunction” and “closest approach” are often used interchangeably. However, conjunction has a more technical meaning and does not necessarily occur with every appulse.
Moon-planet conjunctions occur frequently. Once every 27.3 days, our natural satellite passes through a narrow part of the sky centered on the ecliptic and encounters planets. Planetary conjunctions are less frequent; you can learn more about them in our separate article.
Occultation takes place when a celestial body with a greater apparent diameter passes in front of a body with a smaller apparent diameter; for example, when the Moon passes in front of a star or planet. The occultation of the Sun by the Moon is called a solar eclipse. Each lunar occultation is only visible from some parts of the Earth. That's because the exact position of the Moon in the sky varies by up to 2° at different locations.
How to spot planets next to the Moon?
Here are some things to keep in mind for successful observations.
You may miss the exact time of conjunction or closest approach, but don't worry! Even before or after the exact moment of the event, the objects will stay relatively close together, and that's just as worth observing.
Depending on the angular distance between the objects, some events should be seen with a telescope and some with binoculars. In general, a good 10×50 binocular will give you a 6-7° field of view; for telescopes, this figure varies — it could be less than 1°. You can calculate the field of view of your optics yourself. And, of course, you can also observe an event with the naked eye.
When the Moon is close to its full phase, it outshines fainter objects. For example, you won't be able to see Mercury near a Full Moon because the planet isn't prominent enough. Only the brightest objects, such as Venus or Jupiter, can be seen.
A bright object near the Moon can be a star or a planet. You can tell the difference by checking if the object twinkles. If it does, then it’s a star; if not, it’s a planet. Also, Jupiter and Venus (sometimes Mars and Saturn, too) are way brighter than most stars. You can tell the planets apart by their colors:
- Mercury is gray or brownish;
- Venus is pale yellow;
- Mars is pale pink or bright red;
- Jupiter is orange;
- Saturn is gold.
- To identify an object or find out when objects are closest together for your exact location, use the free stargazing tools — Sky Tonight or Star Walk 2.
Sky Tonight app
To identify an object in the sky with the help of Sky Tonight, follow these steps:
Step 1. Open Sky Tonight and point your device at the sky or tap the big blue button. A live representation of what you see in the sky will appear on the screen, and the app will start to follow your movements.
Step 2. Point your device at the part of the sky where the object is located. For convenience, you can limit the visual magnitude so that only those objects that can be seen with the naked eye appear on the screen. To do this, tap the panel at the bottom of the screen and drag the top slider to the left, closer to the eye icon. From this panel, you can also turn on the night mode, change the constellation appearance, and more.
Step 3. Now you can identify the bright object and get information about it by tapping on its name.
You can also watch our detailed video tutorial.
Star Walk 2 app
To identify an object in the sky with the help of Star Walk 2, follow these steps:
Step 1. Open Star Walk 2 and point your device at the sky or tap the compass icon in the top left corner of the screen. A live representation of what you see in the sky will appear on the screen, and the app will start to follow your movements.
Step 2. Point your device at the part of the sky where the object is located. For convenience, drag the slider on the left down until only the objects you can see in the sky remain on the screen.
Step 3. Now you can identify the bright object and get information about it by tapping on its name at the bottom of the screen.
How to photograph the Moon with planets?
You can take a picture of a planet near the Moon with a professional camera or even a smartphone. Here are some tips to help you:
Check the weather forecast. Open the Sky Tonight app and tap the telescope icon at the bottom. You'll see two tabs — Stargazing Index and Weather. Select the latter and find the date with cloudless weather, so clouds don't interfere with your night of astrophotography.
Find out when objects are well-placed for your location. In Sky Tonight, tap the magnifier icon at the bottom. Enter the name of the object you're interested in and tap the target icon next to the corresponding search result. When the app shows you the object's location, use the panel at the top to scroll through time and determine the best time to take the picture.
Set up a frame. Determine the apparent distance between the Moon and the planet and find their altitude using Sky Tonight. Next, define a rectangle large enough to fit everything you want in the frame, but leave yourself some room. Then use a field of view calculator to find the right lens size for the coverage.
Bring something else into the shot. It could be a tree or a small house, depending on your surroundings. Here is an example of how a target in the foreground improves a shot. Use the AR mode in Sky Tonight to superimpose the image of the night sky on your background. Tap the big blue button on the main screen for this.
Use a tripod. It will help your camera to stay still and take several pictures from the same angle.
Planets near the Moon in March 2024
March 8: Mars near the Moon
- Conjunction time: 04:59 GMT (March 8, 11:59 p.m. EST)
- Conjunction distance: 3°35'
- Close approach time: 06:51 GMT (1:51 a.m. EST)
- Close approach distance: 3°17'
On March 8, the 4.8%-illuminated Moon and Mars (mag 1.3) will meet in the constellation Capricornus. The planet will rise almost simultaneously with the Sun and will hardly be observable. The Moon will also be barely visible as the event will occur two days before the New Moon.
March 8: Venus near the Moon
- Conjunction time: 17:01 GMT (12:01 p.m. EST)
- Conjunction distance: 3°12'
- Close approach time: 18:56 GMT (1:56 p.m. EST)
- Close approach distance: 3°00'
On March 8, the 4.8%-illuminated Moon and Venus (mag -3.9) will meet in the constellation Capricornus. The planet will rise almost simultaneously with the Sun and will hardly be observable. The Moon will also be barely visible as the event will occur two days before the New Moon.
March 10: Lunar occultation of Neptune
- Occultation start: 17:54 GMT (1:54 p.m. EDT)
- Occultation end: 21:44 GMT (5:44 p.m. EDT)
- Close approach time: 19:45 GMT (3:45 p.m. EDT)
- Close approach distance: 0°28'
On March 10, the 0.2%-illuminated Moon will be passing in front of Neptune. The occultation will be visible from South America; the rest of the world will see the planet and the Moon close to each other. The event will be hard to observe as both objects will be close to the Sun.
March 11: Lunar occultation of Mercury
- Occultation start: 01:42 GMT (March 10, 9:42 p.m. EDT)
- Occultation end: 05:04 GMT (1:04 a.m. EDT)
- Close approach time: 03:15 GMT (March 10, 11:15 p.m. EDT)
- Close approach distance: 0°54'
On March 11, the 2.9%-illuminated Moon will be passing in front of Mercury (mag -1.3). The occultation will be visible from New Zealand; the rest of the world will see the planet and the Moon close to each other. As the event closely coincides with the New Moon, our natural satellite will be almost invisible. Mercury will rise during the daytime and set an hour after the Sun.
March 13: Jupiter near the Moon
- Close approach time: 22:44 GMT (6:44 p.m. EDT)
- Close approach distance: 3°19'
- Conjunction time: March 14, 01:01 GMT (March 13, 9:01 p.m. EDT)
- Conjunction distance: 3°36'
On March 13, the 16.6%-illuminated Moon and Jupiter (mag -2.1) will meet in the constellation Aries. It’s best to start observations in the evening, just after sunset: by that time, the duo will be going down after passing the highest point in the sky. Both the Moon and the planet will shine bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye.
March 14: Uranus near the Moon
- Close approach time: 10:00 GMT (6:00 a.m. EDT)
- Close approach distance: 3°15'
On March 14, the 26.3%-illuminated Moon and Uranus will meet in the constellation Aries. Both objects will rise during the daytime and climb the highest in the sky by sunset. Uranus is rather faint to be observed without any optical aid, so it’s best to bring a pair of binoculars.
Now you know what those bright dots near the Moon are. To view the planets and stars near our natural satellite, choose a cloudless night and use Star Walk 2 or Sky Tonight to learn when the celestial objects are best placed for your location. For a visual explanation, watch our recently released video on how to identify bright objects near the Moon using the Sky Tonight app, step by step.
Learn about past conjunctions with the Moon and planets that took place in 2022 in our separate article. Also, see our dedicated article to learn when the Moon passed near the planets in 2023.
Wishing you clear skies and happy observations!