March 2023: What Planet is Next to the Moon?

~14 min
Moon-Venus Conjunction in March 2023

In March 2023, the Moon meets Venus, Jupiter, and Mars in the sky. Learn what planet is closest to the Moon from this article.

Contents

What is the dot next to the Moon tonight?

From March 20 to March 26, 2023, the Moon will visit the constellations Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, and Taurus. Therefore, the brightest stars near our natural satellite will be Hydor from Aquarius, Alpherg from Pisces, Hamal from Aries, and Aldebaran from Taurus. The brightest nearby planets are Venus and Jupiter. 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

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

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.

Observations

How to spot planets next to the Moon?

Here are some things to keep in mind for successful observations.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  1. 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.

You can also watch our detailed video tutorial. Find more videos in the Tutorials section.

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. Depending on your surroundings, it could be a tree or a small house. 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.

March events

March 22: Jupiter near Moon

On March 22, at 20:21 GMT (3:21 p.m, EST), the waxing crescent Moon (magnitude -8.3) will pass only 0°28' from Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) in the constellation Pisces. This will be their closest approach in 2023! Unfortunately, the Moon will be 0.2% illuminated and won’t be visible in the sky.

March 24: Venus near Moon

On March 24, at 10:27 GMT (06:27 a.m. EDT), the waxing crescent Moon (magnitude -10.1) and Venus (magnitude -4.0) will share the same right ascension in the constellation Aries.

Five minutes later, at 10:32 GMT (06:32 a.m. EDT), the Moon and Venus will make the closest approach. The 13.2% illuminated lunar disk will pass 0°06' south of the planet. This is also extremely close, so don't miss this wonderful opportunity to capture images of Venus near the Moon! They will be close enough to fit into the field of view of a telescope but will also be visible to the naked eye or through binoculars.

Observers in parts of Asia and Africa will see the lunar disk pass in front of Venus, creating a lunar occultation. It will be visible from China, India, Thailand, and others. See the full list of countries via the link.

March 25: Moon near Uranus

On March 25, at 00:38 GMT (March 24, 8:38 p.m. EDT), the Moon will pass 1°24' from Uranus. The lunar disk will be 18%-illuminated, and the planet will shine at a magnitude of 5.8. Use binoculars to spot the dim planet. Both objects will be in the constellation Aries, as well as the bright planet Venus (magnitude -4), which will shine near Uranus. The Pleiades (magnitude 1.2) will also be close to the Moon in the constellation Taurus. Observe this beautiful scene after sunset.

March 28: Mars near Moon

On March 28, at 13:04 GMT (09:04 a.m. EDT), the waxing crescent Moon (-11.7) and Mars (0.9) will make the closest approach. They will pass within 2°17' from each other in the constellation Gemini. You can view them with the naked eye or through binoculars. A bit later, at 13:16 GMT (08:16 a.m. EST), the Moon and Mars will share the same right ascension creating a conjunction.

April events

April 16: Moon near Saturn

On April 16, at 03:47 GMT (April 15, 11:37 p.m. EDT), the Moon and Saturn will share the same right ascension. At that moment, the distance between the two bodies will be 3°29'.

Later that day, at 06:12 GMT (2:12 a.m. EDT), they will come even closer to each other, and the distance will be reduced to 3°11'. Find the 22%-illuminated Moon and Saturn (magnitude 1) in the constellation Aquarius. The planet will be bright enough to spot with the naked eye, but you can observe both objects through binoculars as well.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Saturn rises in the middle of the night, so observers from the southern latitudes will have at least three hours before sunrise to enjoy the view. In the Northern Hemisphere, however, it appears in the sky only an hour before the Sun and hangs low above the horizon.

April 23: Moon near Venus

On April 23, at 12:31 GMT (8:31 a.m. EDT), the Moon will pass within 1°17' from Venus. The lunar disk will be 10%-illuminated, and the planet will shine at a magnitude of -4.1, which is bright enough to be seen without optics.

At 13:03 GMT (9:03 a.m. EDT), the conjunction of the Moon and Venus will occur. By that moment, the celestial bodies will move away from each other a little, and the distance between them will be 1°18'.

Venus is visible in the evening, after sunset. You’ll have at least two hours to observe the planet with the lunar crescent shining nearby. Both objects will be in the constellation Taurus. By the way, you can also see the April Lyrids, which reach their peak on the same night! See all the details on this celestial show here.

April 26: Moon near Mars

On April 26, at 02:18 GMT (April 25, 10:18 p.m. EDT), the Moon will meet Mars in the constellation Gemini. The apparent distance between the two objects will be 3°36'. The Moon will be 38%-illuminated, and Mars will shine at a magnitude of 1.3. In the evening, observe the lunar crescent passing through the triangle formed by Mars, Castor (magnitude 1.6), and Pollux (magnitude 1.2) – all visible to the naked eye.

May events

May 13: Moon near Saturn

On May 13, at 13:04 GMT (9:04 a.m. EDT), the 32%-illuminated Moon and Saturn (magnitude 1) will share the same right ascension. At that moment, the distance between the two bodies will be 3°17'.

On the same day, at 15:26 GMT (11:26 a.m. EDT), the Moon and Saturn will get the closest to each other at a distance of 2°59'. Both celestial bodies will be in the constellation Aquarius. In the Northern Hemisphere, Saturn appears above the horizon only a couple of hours before the Sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, the planet rises at about local midnight and is visible all night.

May 17: Moon near Jupiter

On May 17, at 13:15 GMT (9:15 a.m. EDT), the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter will occur. The apparent distance between the two bodies will be 47'.

Earlier that day, at 12:40 GMT (8:40 a.m. EDT), the Moon will pass Jupiter at a distance of 43′. The 6%-illuminated lunar disk will be in the constellation Aries, and the planet will shine in the constellation Pisces at a magnitude of -2.1. Jupiter is best observed before sunrise. Early risers might also spot Mercury (magnitude 1.7) hanging low above the horizon.

Observers from parts of the Americas and Europe will have a chance to see the unique event called lunar occultation: Jupiter will “hide” behind the Moon. Learn more details from our article about the 10 must-see celestial shows of 2023. We also show what the scene will look like in the sky in our infographic.

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What are the not-to-miss astronomical events of 2023? Check this calendar to learn when and where to observe the most spectacular celestial shows of the year!
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May 18: Moon near Mercury

On May 18, at 01:34 GMT (May 17, 9:34 p.m. EDT), the Moon and Mercury (magnitude 1.6) will share the same right ascension. At that moment, the distance between the two bodies will be 3°35'. Both celestial bodies will lie in the constellation Aries. The conjunction will occur a day before the New Moon, so the 3%-illuminated lunar disk will be almost invisible. Find Mercury in the predawn sky, as well as Jupiter, which will also shine nearby at a magnitude of -2.1.

May 23: Moon near Venus

On May 23, at 12:08 GMT (8:08 a.m. EDT), the Moon and Venus will reach conjunction while being within 2°12' from each other. Later that day, at 12:37 GMT, the two bodies will get even closer. The apparent distance between them will be 2°11'.

Observe Venus (magnitude -4.3) and the 12%-illuminated Moon after sunset in the constellation Gemini. Castor (magnitude 1.6) and Pollux (magnitude 1.2) will add up to the scene, as well as Mars (magnitude 1.5) shining nearby. All the objects are bright enough to be spotted with the naked eye.

May 24: Moon near Mars

On May 24, the Moon will move away from Venus to Mars. At 17:32 GMT (1:32 p.m. EDT), the Moon will share the same right ascension with Mars. At 19:19 GMT (3:19 p.m. EDT), the two objects will come the closest to each other: the apparent distance between them will be 3°39'.

The 22%-illuminated Moon and Mars (magnitude 1.5) will be in the constellation Cancer. Observe them in the evening, as well as Venus (magnitude -4.3), which will shine in the neighboring constellation Gemini, forming a triangle with Castor (magnitude 1.6) and Pollux (magnitude 1.2).

Past events

March 21: Moon near Neptune

On March 21, at 06:46 GMT (2:46 a.m. EDT), the Moon will pass 2°6' from Neptune. Both objects will be in the constellation Pisces. The event will be hard to observe as the New Moon occurs on the same day, making our natural satellite unobservable. Moreover, both the Moon and Neptune will rise and set almost simultaneously with the Sun, which will outshine them.

February 28: Mars near Moon

On February 28, at 04:11 GMT (on February 27, at 11:11 p.m. EST), the Moon will make its closest approach to reddish Mars, passing within 1°03' of the planet. During the close approach, two celestial objects will rise higher in the Northern Hemisphere. You can expect to see them in the evening.

Later that night, at 04:32 GMT (on February 27, at 11:32 p.m. EST), the waxing gibbous Moon (magnitude -11.4) will pass within 1°04' of Mars and reach conjunction with the planet. The lunar disk will be 59% illuminated, and the Red Planet will shine at a magnitude of 0.4. You’ll see both objects with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars, but don’t bother taking a telescope — the conjunction won’t fit within its field of view. Look for the objects in the constellation Taurus.

Observers from parts of Northern Europe and Greenland will have a chance to see the Moon passing in front of Mars. The event is called lunar occultation and can only be observed from certain parts of the world; the rest will see the conjunction.

February 22: Venus near Moon

On February 22, at 07:57 GMT (02:57 a.m. EST), Venus (magnitude -4.0) will reach conjunction with the 2-day-old Moon (magnitude -7.8) in the constellation Pisces. The apparent distance between the two objects will be 2°05'. It’s too far to spot them at once via telescope, but you’ll see the conjunction with the naked eye or binoculars.

Later this day, at 09:41 GMT (04:41 a.m. EST), the Moon and Venus will make the closest approach, passing within 1°50' of each other. The Moon will be 4.3% illuminated on this day. The duo will be best visible in the Southern Hemisphere — look for them in the evening.

February 22: Jupiter near Moon

The same day, at 21:58 GMT (4:58 p.m. EST), the waxing crescent Moon (magnitude -10.2) will reach conjunction with the brilliant Jupiter (magnitude -2.1). Our natural satellite will be located in the constellation Cetus, and Jupiter will join it in the neighboring constellation Pisces. The objects will be separated by 1.2°, which is too wide to fit within the field of view of a telescope. Observe the conjunction with the naked eye, or take a pair of binoculars. Bright Venus (magnitude -3.9) will also join the celestial show, shining a little lower on the horizon.

Later, at 22:57 (5:57 p.m. EST), the Moon and Jupiter will pass within 1°03' from each other, reaching their closest approach this month. Again, observers from the Southern Hemisphere will have a better view. See the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus all at once with the naked eye or binoculars. The planets will remain close together for some time reaching conjunction on March 2.

Observers from parts of South America and Antarctica will have a chance to see the Moon passing in front of Jupiter in the constellation Pisces. The event is called lunar occultation and can only be observed from certain parts of the world; the rest will see the conjunction.

January 31: Mars near Moon

On January 31, at 04:24 GMT (on January 30, at 11:24 p.m. EST), the waxing gibbous Moon will meet Mars for the second time in a month. The Red Planet (magnitude -0.3) will shine at a distance of 0.1° from our natural satellite (magnitude -12.3). This will be the year’s closest conjunction, so don’t miss it! The objects will be bright enough to see with the naked eye. Find them both in the constellation Taurus.

Observers from parts of the Americas will have a chance to see the Moon passing in front of Mars. The event is called lunar occultation and can only be observed from certain parts of the world; the rest will see the conjunction.

January 26: Jupiter near Moon

On January 26, at 02:00 GMT (on January 25, at 09:00 p.m. EST), the waxing crescent Moon (magnitude -11.2) will shine near bright Jupiter (magnitude -2.2) in the constellation Pisces. The distance between the two objects in the sky will be 1.8°. It’s too far to spot them at once via telescope, but you’ll see the conjunction with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars.

January 23: Saturn and Venus near Moon

On January 23, at 07:22 GMT (02:22 a.m. EST), Saturn (magnitude 0.7) will meet the 2-day-old Moon (magnitude -6.9) in the constellation Capricornus. The apparent distance between the two objects will be 3°49'. It’s too far to spot them at once via telescope, but you’ll see the conjunction with the naked eye or binoculars.

Later this day, at 08:20 GMT (03:20 a.m. EST), the Moon will pass near Venus (magnitude -3.9). The distance between the two bodies will be 3°27', which is too far to fit within the field of view of a telescope. Luckily, they will be bright enough to spot without any optical devices.

January 3: Mars near Moon

On January 3, at 19:35 GMT (02:35 p.m. EST), the waxing gibbous Moon (magnitude -12.2) will pass within 0.6° of Mars. Our natural satellite will be 91% illuminated, and Mars, a month past opposition, will shine as bright as -1.1. Look for the objects in the constellation Taurus. You’ll spot them easily with the naked eye and may even find the fiery eye of the Bull and the Seven Sisters nearby.

Observers from parts of Africa and Maldives will have a chance to see the Moon passing in front of Mars. The event is called lunar occultation and can only be observed from certain parts of the world; the rest will see the conjunction.

Bottom line

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.

Wishing you clear skies and happy observations!

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