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March skies to offer a rich variety of star events in Arizona

(Pexels photo)

With the arrival of spring on March 20 at 2:58 p.m. Mountain Time, we will hopefully see a return of near normal seasonal temperatures!

The equinox is a magical time and one that reminds us of just how the Earth moves around in its orbit.

During this time, we experience the near equality of day and night. On March 20, the sun will rise in Phoenix at 6:32 a.m. and set at 6:39 p.m., completing a day which will be 12 hours and 7 minutes long.

The reason that the equinox does not provide us with an equal amount of day and night is the fact that the sun is not a pinpoint of light like nighttime stars in the sky.

Another reason is that the light of the Sun is refracted by a small amount, adding to the additional disparity between a perfect 12 hours of daylight and nighttime.

Two additional facts need to be defined with regards to what is a sunset and a sunrise.

Sunrise is the actual time or moment that the top of the sun first touches the horizon and a sunset is the time or moment that the trailing limb of the sun first touches the horizon.

More important than anything, you should experience a sunrise and sunset — and be careful not to damage your eyes in doing so!

Arizona sunrises and sunsets are some of the most beautiful in the entire world.

There are some other interesting sights to see in our March skies as well!

The moon begins March as a waning crescent, passing bright Venus in the southeast sky on the morning of March 2. Look for this event, an hour before sunrise.

The moon will reach its new phase on March 6 and slowly appear as a thin waxing crescent in the west beginning on the night of March 7.

First-quarter moon happens on the night of March 14, a great time to view it with a small telescope, as you can tour the many craters and valleys on the surface of this distant world.

The romantic and bright full moon of March occurs on the night of the equinox, March 20. This is the full Worm Moon. It will be full at exactly 6:43 p.m. Mountain Time, rising just four minutes after sunset, creating a spectacular sight!

Last-quarter moon occurs on March 28, and the moon will pass very close to Saturn in the pre-dawn skies on the morning of March 29.

There will be planets abound in our March skies too!

Look low in the western sky for the planet Mercury as the month opens up. Mercury is the smallest of the major planets, with a diameter of some 3,000 miles. Mercury is one of the most difficult planets to view and now is a good time to see it.

Mars lurks high in the sky at sunset, as it glides into the constellation of Taurus and the star group known as the Pleiades.

Closest to the Pleiades on the night of March 31.

The morning sky offers us a great view of the planet Jupiter, visible in the southern sky around 3 a.m. local time.

Jupiter is now the planet with the most satellites, with a total of 79 discovered moons.

Venus and Saturn round out the month, easy to view in the SE sky, just before dawn.

March has some great sights for the sky watcher in you!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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