What's in the Sky - March 2020
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:
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!
Morning Close Approaches
Starting on March 19th and for the next two mornings, Mars and Jupiter will be less than 1 degree apart. At around 60x magnification they should both fit in the field of view of a telescope. The pair rise around 04:30 in the southeastern sky, and for observers near 40 degrees latitude will reach an altitude of approximately 25 degrees by sunrise at 07:00. Saturn isn't too far away either, about 7 degrees away from the pair that morning.
On March 31st Mars continues its trek across the morning sky to meet with Saturn for a close approach of 54 arcminutes as the Sun rises.
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.