THE second of the two micro moons of 2024 will occur this month. When the Moon is full on March 24 then like the full moon in February, it will be a micro moon.

The moon has an elliptical orbit, which means sometimes it is closer to us than its average distance of 239,000 miles, and sometimes farther away, and the extremes in each case give us a super moon or a micro moon.

Harry Potter fans will be interested to know that now is the best time to look for some of the stars whose names are given to characters in the books, as we can see the winter and spring stars at the same time.

March, which marks the beginning of spring, is seen as a transition month for the stars. The spring constellations are now rising in the east. The winter constellations can still be seen, but you need to look for them towards the west, early in the evening, just after it gets dark.

We start our Harry Potter tour with Orion, the main signpost for the winter constellations, with its main shape resembling a giant rectangle around the three stars that form Orion’s Belt.

The Black family, who were pure blood wizards, are the main source of characters named after stars. If we use the three stars of Orion’s Belt and draw a line down and to the left we come across Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the sky. In the Harry Potter stories Sirius Black, son of Orion Black, was also known as Padfoot or Snuffles. He was the best friend of Harry’s father, James, when they were at Hogwarts, and was godfather to Harry.

The top left hand star of Orion is called Bellatrix which in Latin means ‘Female Warrior’. In Harry Potter, Bellatrix Lestrange, cousin to Sirius, was fanatically loyal to Lord Voldemort and therefore opposed to Harry and Sirius.

Turning to the spring stars, Regulus, Arabic for the ‘Heart of the Lion’, is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the Lion. Leo looks like a giant backwards question mark in the spring sky. In Harry Potter, Regulus Arcturus Black was the younger brother of Sirius Black. Arcturus, a name which runs through the generations in the Black family, is also a spring star, the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman, and can be found by following the curve of the handle of the plough down.

Low in the sky in spring can be seen the constellation of Hydra the Watersnake; a faint constellation whose brightest star is Alphard. Alphard is an Arabic name meaning the ‘Solitary One’ because there are no other bright stars in this part of the sky. In Harry Potter, Alphard Black was uncle to Sirius.

Some constellations, called circumpolar groups, can be seen all year round, the most famous being the Plough and Cassiopeia. Another is Draco the Dragon, source of the name for Harry Potter’s schoolboy enemy Draco Malfoy who was the son of top death eater Lucius Malfoy.

Leaving the Potter stories now, the familiar shape of the Plough is very high in the sky and will reach its highest point over the next couple of months.

It is probably the best known of all the groups of stars in the sky. There are seven stars that form this group; three stars form a curved line which can be seen as the handle of the Plough, and four stars form a rectangle shape which can be imagined as the blade. If you locate the two stars farthest from the handle, they are referred to as ‘the pointers’. Draw a line from the right hand star through the left hand star and then continue for about five times the distance between these two stars and you will reach a star all on its own. It is not the brightest star in the sky but it is one of the most important: the North Star.

If you continue the line from the pointers past the North Star you will see a group of stars which form the shape of a letter ‘W’, or ‘M’, depending on which way you are looking at it. This is the constellation of Cassiopeia.

The Plough and Cassiopeia can be seen all year round, and when the Plough is high in the sky Cassiopeia is low down and vice versa. The Plough and Orion are signposts in the sky for astronomers because they are so well known that people can use them to identify other bright stars. Learning your way around the night sky might be thought of in the same way as trying to do a jigsaw puzzle. You will need to start with some recognisable pieces to help you solve the jigsaw and the Plough and Orion can serve the same purpose when finding your way around the sky.

Orion, which has dominated the winter skies, is now dropping west towards the horizon, but can still easily be found as soon as it becomes dark. The red star Aldebaran in Taurus, and the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, are much lower down in the west and by the end of the month will be difficult to see. This will also apply to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, which is low down in the south west but can still be found during the first half of the month by drawing a line down and to the left from Orion’s belt.

As for the other bright winter stars, Capella recently occupied the overhead point but can now be found to the west of it, while Procyon in Canis Minor and Castor and Pollux in Gemini, can still be found high in the south west but are now past their best.

The star Vega in Lyra, which is part of the Summer Triangle, can now be seen rising low in the north east, and by summer will take the overhead point.

The planets in March - I am afraid this month will be a poor one for observing the planets. Only Jupiter can easily be seen, a bright white spot in the south west in the early evening. Venus can be seen at the beginning of the month as a bright spot before the sun rises in the south east. Sadly, by mid-month Venus will be like Mars, Mercury and Saturn; too close to the Sun to be seen Meteor Showers - There are no major predicted meteor showers expected this month.

Phases of the Moon - Last Quarter 3; New Moon 11; First Quarter 17; Full Moon 25.

The Full Moon in March is called the Lenten Moon, as it has to fall in the religious period of Lent, which lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter.

The spring equinox occurs on March 20, marking the point when spring starts in the northern hemisphere and autumn starts in the southern hemisphere. The word ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin words aequi, which means equal, and nox, which means night. At this instant the Sun lies above the equator and both poles of the planet are illuminated, meaning that on this day the length of daylight and night time are the same.

On March 31, British Summer Time, or BST, begins. The clocks will go forward an hour. Astronomers will have to stay up later to wait for darkness.

I hope everyone has the chance to enjoy an Easter egg while they look at the stars.