Skywatch March 2016

We will have a deep partial solar eclipse in the Hawaiian Islands on the afternoon on March 8, 2016. In a partial solar eclipse, the moon passes between the earth and the sun and blocks part of the sun’s disk. At the maximum of this March 8 eclipse, at 5:37 p.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time, about 70 per cent of the sun will be blocked by the moon.

Deep Partial Solar Eclipse Over Hawaiian Islands

Beginning at 4:33 p.m. on that day, using safe viewing techniques, you will see a small “bite” taken out of the sun as the moon begins to move in front of the sun. The bite will seem to deepen over the next hour. The partial solar eclipse peaks at 5:37 p.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time, when 70 per cent of the sun’s disc will be blocked by the moon. By the time, the sun will be low in the sky, only 14 degrees above the west horizon; that’s about 1.5 hands held at arm’s length. The eclipse ends at 6:33 p.m. HST, just a few minutes before the sun sets at 6:36 p.m. that evening. It is essential, if you are trying to view this eclipse to have a clear view of the west, since the eclipse will occur when the sun is low in the afternoon sky.

The timings of this eclipse are same across the Hawaiian Islands, although the sunset times will be a little different depending on your location in the islands.

Safety Consideration

A very important note: it is never safe to view a partial solar eclipse directly. The inexpensive, safe viewing glasses carried by Bishop Museum’s Shop Pacifica and other venues are a good means of viewing solar eclipses. (These glasses retail for only $2 at Bishop Museum’s Shop Pacifica; I recommend getting them early, since we sell out of them every time we have a major solar event.)

Partial vs Total Solar Eclipses

Because the sun is so incredibly bright, you will not notice a change in the brightness of the sun during a partial eclipse, even when over 2/3rds of the sun is blocked out by the moon. So, on the afternoon of March 8, most folks will have no idea an eclipse is occurring unless they are viewing the sun through a safe filter. The eerie sensation of “darkness in the daytime” only occurs during a total eclipse of the sun, when the sun briefly blocks out the entire solar disk; this is a much rarer phenomenon for any one spot on earth than a partial eclipse.

Interestingly, the March 8 2016 eclipse that is partial over the main Hawaiian Islands will be total in the ocean off of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; the path of totality will pass just south of Midway, and will not cross any of the actual Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Any given spot on earth sees a partial solar eclipse every few years; our last one in Hawai‘i was on May 9, 2013 and the next occurs at dawn on August 21, 2017. Any given spot on earth sees a total solar eclipse only, on average, once every 360 years; our last total solar eclipse (over the island of Hawai‘i) occurred on July 11, 1991, and the next total eclipse over an actual Hawaiian island does not occur till 2106.

So if you live in Hawaii and want to see a total solar eclipse, the most awesome sight in astronomy, you’ll need to travel! In fact that the partial eclipse in the Hawaiian Islands at dawn on August 21, 2017 will be a total eclipse on that same day across the heart of the continental USA, with the city of Nashville right in the path of totality. If you want to head for the continent to catch this August 21 2017 spectacle, make your plans soon – hotels are already booking up along the path of totality.

More on 8/21/17 eclipse from NASA:

March 8-9 Eclipse Elsewhere

This March 2016 eclipse will also be a total eclipse over much of Indonesia, including the southern parts of both Borneo and Sumatra. In those areas, on the far side of the International Date Line, the eclipse occurs on March 9. The eclipse will be seen as a partial eclipse over most of Asia (except for western India, northern China and Mongolia). Here as well, the eclipse occurs on the 9 th on March, on the other side of the International Date Line. So in Tokyo, for example, the eclipse peaks around 11:30 a.m. local time, with about 10 per cent of the sun blocked by the moon.

No part of North or South America sees any part of this March 8 eclipse except for western Alaska, where the partial eclipse is visible right before sunset on March 8.

View the path of this eclipse HERE.

Bishop Museum Eclipse Viewing Event

Bishop Museum will host a solar eclipse event on Tuesday afternoon March 8, 3 – 6:30 p.m. Volunteers from the Hawaiian Astronomical Society and the Institute for Astronomy will be on the great lawn with their large and safely-filtered telescopes to provide views of the eclipse in progress, and the observatory will be open as well.

While both of these viewing events are weather-dependent, we will also feature a webcast of this same eclipse from Micronesia, where it will be total. We will also present eclipse planetarium shows at 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., exploring why eclipses occur and previewing both this eclipse and the “Great American Eclipse” of summer 2017, which passes over the heart of the continental US. The Shop Pacifica will feature safe, inexpensive solar viewing glasses. The Science Adventure Center and Hawaiian Hall will remain open till 6:30 p.m. that evening.

The eclipse program is included with regular Bishop Museum admission; the Museum will remain open straight through that day to 6:30 p.m.

Planets in March


All month, the brilliant planet rises just after 5:30 a.m. in the east and is about 10 degrees up above the horizon by daybreak 45 minutes later. Minus 4 magnitude.


Rises in the east around sunset in early March, is high overhead at midnight, and sets in the west at dawn. Jupiter is in opposition on March 8, with the sun, earth and Jupiter in a straight line; during opposition an outer planet generally shines at its brightest, which for Jupiter is a whopping minus 2.5.

By the end of the month, Jupiter is 1/3 of the way up in the east at dusk, crosses the top of the sky at 11 p.m., and sets in the west at 5 a.m.


In early March, orange Mars rises a little after midnight in the east southeast, is halfway up in the south at 6 a.m. as it disappears into the breaking day. By late March, Mars rises at 11 p.m., is halfway up in the south at 4 a.m., and high in the west by daybreak. Mars will double in brightness in the course of the month, from 0.24 magnitude on the first to minus 0.5 on the last day of the month. Mars is heading for its peak brightness in late May 2016; by May 21 it will be nearly as bright as Jupiter, minus 2.1 magnitude.


Saturn rises in the east at 1:30 a.m. in early March and is due south at daybreak. By the end of the month the ringed planet comes up at 11:30 p.m. and is high in the west at dawn. Saturn shines steadily at 0.3 magnitude.


Mercury will be lost in the sun’s light all month.

Dawn Planet Parade Continues

While we’ve lost Mercury, the other four naked eye planets remain in the dawn sky, as they were for all of February. At 6 a.m. in early March, look for Venus rising low in the east, as Jupiter sets in the west. The two planets are the sky’s brightest dots. Then, look due south; both Saturn and Mars will be halfway up in the southern sky before dawn, Saturn to the left and Mars to the right of due south. Mars is distinctly orange, Saturn white-yellow. By the end of the month you can still find Venus huddled low in the east and Jupiter low in the west, but you’ll have only a few minutes around 5:50 a.m. to catch Mars and Saturn (high in the west by end of month) before daybreak. In the course of the month, the middle two planets in this quartet, Mars and Saturn, appear to dawn closer to each other; they are 20 degrees apart in early March (two fists at arm’s length), and only ten degrees apart at the end.

Other Sky Events in March

March 13

Start of Daylight Saving Time for most of continental US and Canada. As of this day, the east coast is six hours ahead of the Hawaiian Islands and the west coast is three hours ahead of Hawai‘i. The Hawaiian Islands do not observe Daylight Saving Time.

March 19

Spring begins at 6:31 p.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time on March 19 (04:31 on March 20 Universal Time).

March 22-23

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse: Technically “visible” from Hawaii but this is of academic interest only there is no observable change in moon’s brightness or color. In a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon moves only into the outer shadow of the earth, missing the dark inner shadow of the earth entirely. During a penumbral eclipse, you will see no change in the moon’s brightness; the outer shadow of the earth is too faint to darken the lunar disc. PENUMBRAL LUNAR ECLIPSES ARE NON-EVENTS. That said, in terms of knowing the timing out of academic interest: this penumbra eclipse starts at 11:39 p.m. on March 22 HST, and ends at 3:54 a.m. on March 23 HST.


March Sky Map

Like all of our monthly maps, this one is good for 10 p.m. on the first day of the month, 9 p.m. for the middle of the month, and for 8 p.m. at the end.

Moon Phases (Hawaiian Time Zone):

Third Quarter: March 1 & 31

New: March 8

First Quarter: March 15

Full: March 23

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