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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

What's In The Sky - March 2021

Take your family on a journey to the stars from the comfort of your own backyard! Here are some of Orion Telescope and Binoculars 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, Orion's namesake constellation will get lower and lower in the west, making it harder to see as the Sun moves eastward in the sky.

Planetary group of Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, and the Moon in the south-eastern sky on March 10th around 5:40 am MST. Graphic created from Stellarium.
Planetary group of Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, and the Moon in the south-eastern sky on March 10th around 5:40 am MST. Graphic created from Stellarium.

Morning Planetary Group

March 10th brings a nice group of planets. Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, and the Moon will all be grouped together. Get up early, grab a telescope and take a look!

M45 - The Pleiades star cluster (left) imaged on ATEO-1 and processed by Chris Lin using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application and the Double Cluster in Perseus imaged and processed by ATEO-1 user Claudio Tenreiro.
M45 - The Pleiades star cluster (left) imaged on ATEO-1 and processed by Chris Lin using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application and the Double Cluster in Perseus imaged and processed by ATEO-1 user Claudio Tenreiro.

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.

Leo Triplet of galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628 (left) imaged and processed on ATEO-1 by Utkarsh Mishra and M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy imaged on ATEO-1 and processed by Jeff Padell using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application.
Leo Triplet of galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628 (left) imaged and processed on ATEO-1 by Utkarsh Mishra and M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy imaged on ATEO-1 and processed by Jeff Padell using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application.

Galaxies Galore

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!

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.

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