A parade of five planets, including Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury and Venus (pictured) along with the bright star Antares, will light the sky starting March 7. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Stargazers, get your binoculars ready: a string of bright planets, called a "Planet Parade," will grace the night's sky this week, and the show is expected to last several days.
It's just the start of what will be a breathtaking month. A "worm moon" rose on March 1, and another full moon, known as a "blue moon," will pop up on March 31. But this may be the most stunning show yet.
A rare parade of planets, including Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury and Venus along with the bright star Antares, will light the sky starting March 7, though they won't all be visible at the same time.
Here's what you need to know about March's full moons – the "worm moon" and the "blue moon" – and the parade of planets that will put on a spectacular show during the first week of March.
What's a "Planet Parade"?
A parade of planets, including Jupiter, Mars and Saturn will be visible from March 4 to March 11. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Newsmakers)
A "Planet Parade" is a celestial event that occurs when a group of planets are visible to the naked eye.
The moon will shift a reported 12 degrees each night, giving skywatchers a clear view of a string of planets.
"The Moon will shift along this line of stars and planets, appearing … near Jupiter on March 7, between Mars and Jupiter, and above the bright star Antares on March 8, near Mars on March 9, between Mars and Saturn on March 10, and near Saturn on March 11," NASA explained.
When can I see it?
Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to catch the five planets either during "post-sunset or predawn hours," according to The Weather Channel.
"The best chance for viewing Wednesday morning will be in parts of the south and Rockies," The Weather Channel says, adding that several weather systems, including an incoming nor'easter, may block the view. "The South and parts of the West will be the best spots for viewing Thursday morning."
If you're lucky enough to have a clear view, you can catch Mars, Jupiter and Saturn around midnight from March 7 through March 11. The red planet will be the first to rise, and the other slightly dimmer planets will follow hours later.
"Jupiter is very bright. It’s brighter than any object in the sky except for Venus, so you’ll have no trouble spotting it after it ascends over your eastern horizon within an hour or so after midnight," EarthSky.org reported. "Red Mars and golden Saturn are much fainter, and they won’t rise until closer to the dawn."
Unlike those three planets, Venus and Mercury will be easy to spot right after sunset between March 18 and March 20.
"Venus will act as your guide to Mercury, because it’s about 12 times brighter than Mercury now," EarthSky.org explained. "These two worlds are now very near each other on the sky’s dome."
At the end of the month, when the "blue moon" rises, Saturn and Mars will appear together.
What is a "worm moon"?
A full moon, nicknamed the "worm moon," will grace the night's sky Thursday. (Sergio Estupiñán Vesga)
The March 1 moon was dubbed the "worm moon" by the Old Farmer's Almanac in the 1930s because it's a sign spring is finally arriving.
It was named "worm moon" after "earthworm casts that appear as the ground thaws," NASA wrote in a post online.
Southerners are more likely to use the term because they have an abundance of earthworms, unlike the northern part of the U.S.
"When glaciers covered the northern part of North America they wiped out the native earthworms," NASA explained. "These glaciers melted about 12,000 years ago and the forests grew back without earthworms."
While "worm moon" is the moon's most popular nickname, there are several other names for the last full moon of winter, including: the sugar moon, crow moon, crust moon and the corn moon.
What is a "blue moon"?
A "blue moon" is the second full moon to appear within the same month. (Tomsajinsa)
The term "blue moon" has been around since the 1940s. The name is simply used to distinct the full moon as the second to appear within a calendar month.
Full moons aren't exactly rare. They occur, on average, every 29.53 days (12.37 times per year), Space.com reported. But to catch a glimpse of one twice in one month is a special treat. It only happens every three years or so.
It's even more special to spot two blue moons in one year.
There's almost always a full moon in February. In fact, the month is only without a full moon every 19 years.
"The last time February didn't have a full moon was in 1999, and the time before that was 1980," Space.com reported. "The next time there will be no full moon in February will be 2037."
Because February only had 28 days, this year's full moon carried over to March, confirming the March 31 full moon would be a "blue" one.
When can I see it?
Unlike the "worm moon," the"blue moon" will reach peak fullness early in the morning at approximately 8:37 a.m. ET on March 31.
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