These charts help beginners recognise the major landmarks of the night sky and follow the motions of the bright planets.

There's also the monthly Sky Spotter update (below) which tells you what's visible for the current month, and the Sky Guide for a three-month overview of the planets and their positions. 

Click the month to download the pair of star charts – one looking east, the other west. Only the most prominent constellations are shown.

Star chart March 2024 coming soon



The star charts show two views of the night sky for each month. One view shows the western sky and the other shows the eastern sky. A small piece of the northern and southern sky is not shown so that we can show you a better scale for the charts.

Each chart will match the sky at the times given in the table on each page.

  • To match the chart to the western sky, hold the western chart with the ‘WEST’ label aligned with west on your horizon. Be aware that hills, trees and buildings might block your view of objects near the horizon. Also, because of city lights and the absorbing effect of Earth’s atmosphere, objects nearer the horizon will generally appear fainter and redder – an effect we've all seen when watching the Sun or Moon set. 

  • Locate the ‘OVERHEAD’ marker for each chart - this will help orientate your view of the sky. The other key marker is labelled ‘SCP’ – the South Celestial Pole. The whole sky seems to rotate around this point so objects close to the SCP will never set – they are called ‘circumpolar’.

  • The elevation of the SCP above your horizon measures your latitude. These charts are made for Auckland's latitude (37° south). (From say, Invercargill, the SCP will appear nearly 10° higher in the south so more of the southern sky will be circumpolar from there). The Southern Cross never sets anywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand so is perpetually in our skies, even though in the very north of the country it nearly touches the southern horizon.

  • The thin blue line stretching across the charts is called the ‘ecliptic’. This marks the annual path of the Sun over the year and it is also the plane of the Solar System. The planets are always found along the ecliptic and are marked on the charts. By checking all the charts you can follow the motions of the planets against the stars over the year.

  • The size of the stars on the charts indicates the approximate brightness of each star. This is also true for the naked eye planets, however, Uranus and Neptune are shown out of scale since they are too faint to see without binoculars or a telescope.

  • Because the planets move against the stars over the course of the year, the positions shown for them is only exactly right for the ‘mid-month’ date. For example, on the ‘JANUARY – WEST’ chart, the positions of the planets are calculated for mid-January at 10pm. For Saturn and Jupiter that move slowly, their positions will stay similar to the chart. However, Mercury, Venus and Mars move quite quickly relative to the stars, so their positions on the charts can be different.  


MARCH 2024

Jupiter is still visible towards the northwest in the early evening in early March, but will have almost completed its move towards the western horizon by the end.

Orion (the hunter) is the dominant constellation with its brightest star Rigel at top left and second brightest, orange Betelgeuse, at bottom right. Drifting from north to northwest as the evenings pass, Orion’s belt stars become increasingly vertical. They point down through Taurus (the bull) to Matariki, and up to the brightest star of the night sky, Sirius, of Canis Major (the big dog).

Partway up the sky, the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux can be found crossing the northern meridian east to west, as the evenings pass. Above them, Canis Minor’s two brightest stars, the most prominent named Procyon, lie at a similar angle. To the twins’ right, Leo (the lion) approaches from the northeast, the stars of his head resembling an inverted question mark or sickle. The brightest star in the sickle is Regulus. Meanwhile, the distorted quadrilateral of Corvus (the crow) stands out in the east. Below Corvus, bright Spica of Virgo (the maiden) is just rising.

Partway up the south-eastern sky, Crux (the southern cross) is on its side pointing back to Corvus. Canopus of Carina (the keel), the night’s second brightest star, is very high in the south, outshone only by Sirius further north. Together these stars drift lazily westward during March. The Milky Way threads its way through Crux towards the so-called ‘winter’ triangle in the northern sky, formed by Sirius, orange Betelgeuse, and Procyon.

Venus is still bright and easy to see in the eastern morning sky in the period before sunrise, though it will be moving closer to the Sun in the sky as the month progresses. Mars, not as bright but with an orange hue, can be found higher in the morning sky towards the East. Pale yellow Saturn will be moving from a position near the Sun at the start of the month to one close to Mars by the end, passing very close to Venus in the early hours of the 22nd.

Orion nebula in infrared
This 2022 image of the Orion Nebula shows two enormous caverns carved out by unseen giant stars that can release up to a million times more light than our Sun. All that radiation breaks apart dust grains there, helping to create the pair of cavities. Much of the remaining dust is swept away when the stars produce wind or when they die explosive deaths as supernovae. This infrared image shows dust but no stars. Blue light indicates warm dust heated by unseen massive stars. Around the edge of the two cavernous regions, the dust that appears green is slightly cooler. Red indicates cold dust that reaches temperatures of about minus 440 Fahrenheit (minus 260 Celsius). The cold dust appears mostly on the outskirts of the dust cloud, away from the regions where stars form. The red and green light shows wavelengths in the far-infrared and microwave ranges, where cold dust radiates. In between the two hollow regions are orange filaments where dust condenses and forms new stars. Over time, these filaments may produce new giant stars that will once again reshape the region. Source: NASA JPL. Click here for full size.



The nights are getting longer and cooler as we pass the autumn equinox. Orion, the dominant constellation of summer, is moving off the celestial stage, chased by the cooler but rich constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius.

During March, early in the night, Canis Major (the great dog) and Orion (the hunter) are well placed for viewing and well-worth exploring with binoculars. High in the north there are three bright stars in a line. These stars make up the ‘Belt of Orion’ - also known to us in Aotearoa New Zealand as Tautoru. They are one of the most distinctive landmarks of the night sky.

Extending the line of the belt stars upward and to the right you will find Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Extend the line down and left from the belt and you will find the orange star, Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus. Continue that line further and you will find the beautiful Pleiades cluster, known to us in Aotearoa New Zealand as Matariki.

By mid-April, Matariki is low in the northwest after sunset and is becoming more difficult to see. In May our line of sight is broken by the Sun and the glimmering stars of Matariki are lost from our view until June.

Back at Orion’s Belt, identify the bright stars Rigel (white) and Betelgeuse (reddish) which in early Autumn, are above left and below right of the belt, respectively. Those two bright stars, together with two slightly fainter ones enclose most of Orion with the belt being in the middle. A small line of fainter stars above and left of the belt marks Orion’s sword. One of these ‘stars’ is the magnificent Orion Nebula (M42), the closest massive star forming region to us. It is a stunning sight even in backyard telescopes.

In the south-eastern sky, Scorpius, also known as Maui’s fishhook, is seen rising around midnight in March. By the month of May, it will be rising in the early evening just as Orion is setting, Thus, Scorpius will become the dominant feature of our evening sky until spring. Further south, Crux, Carina and Centaurus are also major features of our autumn and winter skies.

During March, Canopus of Carina is high overhead. Canopus, or Atutahi, was a key guide star used by the Polynesian voyagers and today it is used to guide interplanetary spacecraft. By May, Canopus will have moved to the southwest while Crux (the Southern Cross) will be high in the south-eastern sky. This is a very rich stellar region to explore with binoculars. So too is the densest region of the Milky Way, the galactic centre, seen rising with the scorpion’s tail late in autumn.

Visibility of the Naked-Eye Planets


Absent for much of the season Mercury becomes well placed for early morning viewing from mid-April, just north of east. Much brighter Venus will pass close to it around the 20th April, while Saturn and Mars will be higher to the left in the early hours


Venus begins the season as the ‘morning star’ in autumn’s eastern sky. As the weeks progress, it will move closer and closer to the Sun in the sky, making it increasingly difficult to see by April. The Easter weekend may be the last good opportunity to see Venus for a while, with Saturn and Mars both higher in the sky towards the east as well.


Having just been passed by Venus in late February, Mars remains quite bright towards the eastern sky throughout autumn. The Moon and Saturn are close-by on April 8th, with the latter passing close by just a few days later on the 11th. Although rising a little earlier every night, it still remains a firmly early morning target for this season.


In early March, Jupiter is sitting low in the sky just north of west after sunset, although soon dipping below the western horizon. By April, it will be too close to the Sun to see easily. We will have to wait until Winter for it to start appearing again the eastern morning sky.


Saturn returns to the eastern sky in the mornings from late March. By the end of May it is high in the north as the sky brightens. Close passes of Venus occur on March 22nd and of Mars on April 11th.