Events of interest for March ….
March – Many thanks again for all your contributions to the group. Don’t ever forget, there is no such thing as a daft question in here. Don’t forget to visit out sister group “AUK – Aurora UK” for reports on aurora activity. This is a good month to chase two Comets using binoculars and/or telescope.
There are a few changes in this months “What’s Up” and I am trying to research as much upcoming activity as possible. There will be more postings on upcoming Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s) which are best placed for viewing. This is in part due to my own observatory now being functional and remoted and this also provides me some steerage on upcoming events.
PLANETS THIS MONTH
Mercury (mag -0.1) can be seen from the middle of the month in the evening, low above the western horizon, for no more than an hour in Pisces. Venus (mag -3.9) and Mars (mag 1.3) are in Capricornus in the first half of the month, then move to Aquarius. They rise above the eastern horizon in the morning and are too close to the Sun to be visible. Jupiter (mag -2.0) rises in the evening in Aries. Saturn (mag 1.1) becomes visible only by the end of the month in the morning, very low above the eastern horizon in Aquarius. Uranus (mag 5.7) can be seen in Aries in the evening. Also, in the evening, look for Neptune (mag 7.9) at the beginning of the month near the western horizon in Pisces.
DEEP SKY OBSERVING
March is the perfect time to observe deep-sky objects. During this month, enthusiasts participate in the Messier Marathon and try to find as many objects from the Messier catalog as possible in one night. It usually coincides with the New Moon phase, which this year falls on the night of March 9-10.
Besides, March is the beginning of galaxy season! There are many galaxies in the sky this month for all levels of observing skills. If you’re a beginner, look for Bode’s Galaxy (M81), which is bright and easy to see; right next to it is the slightly fainter Cigar Galaxy (M82). Try to capture them in one frame!
Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) is another galaxy to look for in March. Located in the constellation of Ursa Major, it has a magnitude of 7.9 and can be seen with binoculars or small telescopes from dark locations. The Pinwheel Galaxy is easy to find — it’s close to the “handle” of the “bowl” that forms the Big Dipper asterism.
More advanced observers can try to catch the isolated barred spiral galaxy NGC 2903 in Leo. By the way, Messier missed this galaxy when compiling his catalog. Tip for astrophotographers: you will need a lot of exposure time to bring out its wispy arms.
But galaxies aren’t the only deep sky objects to look at in March. The Wishing Well Cluster (NGC 3532) is a perfect object for viewing: at magnitude 3, it is visible to the naked eye. On a clear, dark night, it appears as a hazy patch in the sky. Through binoculars or a telescope, this stunning cluster looks like a collection of silver coins scattered at the bottom of a well — hence its nickname.
March 01 – COMET – Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks rises above the horizon in the evening and morning hours. It begins the month in the constellation Andromeda, then moves to Pisces, and arrives in Aries by the end of March. On March 31, the comet will be less than half a degree from Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation.
March 02 – COMET – Comet C/2021 S3 (PANSTARRS) (mag 9.9) reaches its brightest – relatively high above the southeastern horizon. Traveling through the constellations Serpens Cauda, Aquila, Sagitta and finish the month in Vulpecula.
March 03 – MOON – The Moon will pass last quarter phase, rising in the middle of the night and appearing prominent in the pre-dawn sky. From Scarborough, it will be visible from soon after it rises, at 02:52, until soon before it sets at 09:08. At this time in its monthly cycle of phases, it appears almost exactly half illuminated. The Moon orbits the Earth once every four weeks, causing its phases to cycle through new moon, first quarter, full moon, last quarter, and back to new moon once every 29.5 days.
March 10 – NEW MOON – The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 09:02 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
March 14 – MOON/JUPITER – Moon passes 3°36′ from Jupiter (mag -2.1), 3°15′ from Uranus (mag 5.8)
March 15 – MOON/CLUSTER – The Moon and M45 will make a close approach, passing within a mere 21.2 arcminutes of each other. The Moon will be 5 days old. From Scarborough, the pair will become visible at around 18:58 (GMT), 47° above your south-western horizon, as dusk fades to darkness. They will then sink towards the horizon, setting at 00:53.
March 17 – MOON – First quarter moon
March 20 – EQUINOX – The March equinox occurs at 03:01 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere. The moon passes 3°48′ from the Beehive star cluster (mag 3.1)
March 21 – SATURN/VENUS – Saturn (mag 1.1) passes 0°18′ from Venus (mag -3.8).
March 24 – MERCURY – The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 18.7 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
March 25 – FULL MOON – The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 07:02 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Crow Moon, the Crust Moon, the Sap Moon, and the Lenten Moon.
March 31 – COMET – Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (mag 6.5) passes close to Hamal (mag 2).
Observations and imaging now being conducted at the Muston Observatory (MOBS) near Filey, North Yorks
Muston Observatory – https://www.facebook.com/groups/mustonobs
Don’t forget our sister group with near real time aurora alerts ….
AUK – Aurora UK – https://www.facebook.com/groups/AuroraUK/
Note: Times are marked BST those without BST are UTC (ie an hour less)
Thanks to: in-the-sky.org and various online astronomy calendars + own input