What's in the Sky — March 2018
Take your family on a journey to the stars from the comfort of your own backyard! Here are some of Orion's top picks for March stargazing:
Moon & Jupiter Huddle Up
Check out a pretty pairing of gas giant planet Jupiter and the Moon from approximately midnight March 6th into the early hours of March 7th. Depending on your location, the largest planet in the Solar System will appear as close as 4.1° from the waning gibbous Moon.
Orion Continues to Shine
Constellation Orion is still well-placed in March skies for telescopic study. Check out bright nebula M42, also called the Orion Nebula, which is visible as the middle "star" of Orion's "sword" just south of the three recognizable stars of Orion's belt. While easily detected in astronomy binoculars, the wispy Orion Nebula will reveal more intricate details in a telescope. After March, our namesake constellation will get lower and lower in the west, making it harder to see as the Sun moves eastward in the sky.
Brilliant Binocular Clusters
Grab a pair of 50mm or larger astronomy binoculars in March for great views of the Pleiades star cluster (M45), the Beehive cluster (M44), and the must-see Double Cluster in Perseus. These sparkling sky gems are simply beautiful when observed with big binoculars, or use a wide-field eyepiece and short focal length telescope for a closer look.
By about 9-10pm throughout March, Ursa Major, Leo, and the western edge of the Virgo galaxy cluster are high enough in the eastern sky to yield great views of some of our favorite galaxies. Check out the bright pair of M81 and M82 just above the Big Dipper asterism. Look east of bright star Regulus to observe the Leo Triplet of galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628. In the northeastern sky, check out the famous Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). While the Whirlpool can be seen with modest 50mm binoculars, using a 10" or 12" telescope in a location with dark skies will display the distant galaxy's beautiful spiral arms. With an 8" or larger telescope and a dark sky this region of the sky harbors dozens of galaxies — try to find them all!
New Moon, Dark Skies
Take advantage of the dark skies provided by the New Moon on March 17th to scope out the many star clusters, galaxies and other deep-sky gems on display in March. Pack up your astronomy gear using our full line of telescope and accessory cases and head to a dark sky site for the best viewing conditions.
Challenge Object, NGC 2419, "The Intergalactic Wanderer"
In the constellation Lynx, from a location with dark skies using a good 4.5" or larger telescope, try to find globular cluster NGC 2419. To make this star cluster easier to locate, we suggest a 6 or 8" telescope, but a larger telescope is needed to resolve the cluster into individual stars. NGC 2419 is a very distant cluster located approximately 300,000 light-years from the galactic center of the Milky Way, which is almost twice as far away as the Large Magellanic Cloud satellite galaxy. In fact, the star cluster earned its "Intergalactic Wanderer" nickname when its distance caused astronomers to mistakenly think the cluster wasn't part of the Milky Way galaxy.
All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.