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The Buzz

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For Venus In March's Night Sky




(Photo via Shutterstock)

Although it's not something you can see in the night sky, one of the most anticipated astronomical events each year happens in March, when spring officially begins.

The official start of spring is called the spring equinox, or the vernal equinox. It usually occurs on or around March 20. This year, the spring equinox will occur at 10:50 p.m. March 19, according to EarthSky. The equinox is the exact moment when Earth's equator passes through the sun's centerpoint. 

March is also a good time of year to see Venus in the night sky because it will reach its farthest angle away from the sun, referred to as its elongation from the sun, EarthSky reports. This year Venus will reach its greatest evening elongation from the sun on March 24, meaning it will be especially bright in the evening sky, appearing as the brightest star in the sky. 

Venus is the third-brightest celestial body, behind only the sun and the moon, according to EarthSky. In addition to its evening elongation, Venus also annually reaches a point of maximum elongation in the morning sky, which will be on August 13 this year. 

The full moon for March will be on March 9, Space.com reports. The exact moment the moon will reach its fullest point will be 12:48 p.m. March's full moon is a supermoon, meaning it will appear especially large and bright. 

Supermoons appear to be larger and brighter because the moon is full at the same time its orbit reaches its closest point to Earth, called the perigee, according to NASA. Because it travels in an elliptical orbit, the moon is not always the same distance from Earth. It averages about 238,855 miles away.

In addition to March's supermoon, the April and May full moons will also be supermoons. The largest of the 2020 supermoons will be April's, EarthSky reports.

The full moon for March has several different nicknames, the most common of which is the worm moon, according to the Farmers' Almanac. It's called the worm moon because winter gives way to spring in March, and the ground begins to thaw, allowing earthworms to reappear at ground level. Other names for the March full moon include fulcrum moon; the full crust moon, a reference to the crusty upper level of snow cover at this time of year, when it begins to melt during the day and refreeze at night; and the full sap moon, because this is the time of year sap begins to flow from maple trees.

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