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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2019

Posted by Guy Pirro   03/02/2019 12:33AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2019


A mere 600 light-years away, NGC 2632 or M44 is one of the closest star clusters to our Solar System. Also known as the Praesepe or the Beehive cluster its stars are young though, about 600 million years old compared to our Sun's 4.5 billion years. Based on similar ages and motion through space, M44 and the even closer Hyades star cluster in Taurus are thought to have been born together in the same large molecular cloud. An open cluster spanning some 15 light years across, M44 holds 1000 or so stars and covers about 3 full moons (1.5 degrees) across the sky in the constellation Cancer. Visible to the unaided eye, M44 has been recognized since antiquity. Described as a faint cloud or celestial mist long before being included as M44 in Charles Messier's 18th century catalog, the cluster was not resolved into its individual stars until telescopes were available. A popular target for modern, binocular-equiped sky gazers, the cluster's few yellowish tinted, cool, red giants are scattered through the field of its brighter hot blue main sequence stars. (Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI) (Image Credit: Giuseppe Donatiello from Oria (Brindisi), Italy).




Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2019

Welcome to the night sky report for March 2019 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In March, the stars of spring lie eastward. Look for the constellations Gemini and Cancer to spot interesting celestial features like the Beehive Cluster. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.


Jupiter greets early risers all month long. Look low in the southeast an hour before sunrise. (And if you have an unobstructed view toward the horizon, you'll be able to spot Saturn and Venus as well, a bit lower in the sky). March marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager 1 spacecraft's flyby of Jupiter in 1979. Voyager gave us our first detailed, close-up look at the giant planet and its moons.


March also brings the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, starting on March 20th, with the Spring Equinox. Equinoxes occur twice a year, in spring and fall, on the dates when day and night are of equal length. From here until the beginning of fall in September, daytime will be longer than nighttime, as the Sun travels a longer and higher arc across the sky each day, reaching a peak at the start of summer. It's just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, where March 20th marks the fall Equinox.


Earth is tilted on its axis with respect to the Sun. This means that, as the planet orbits the Sun each year, different parts of Earth get the Sun’s direct rays. It also means the Sun is in the sky longer during part of the year (summer) making for longer days and warmer temperatures, and for less time during part of the year  (winter) making for shorter days and cooler temperatures. In 2019, the fall equinox is on September 23. The beginning of summer, or summer solstice, is on June 21.


As the brilliant stars of winter progress toward the west, the constellations of spring make their appearance. Two March constellations derived from Greek mythology, Gemini and Cancer, lie in the zodiac. The zodiac is the name for the band of sky through which the Sun, Moon, and planets appear to travel.


The Gemini twins lie high overhead. They were among Jason's Argonauts, who sailed the seas searching for the Golden Fleece. The two bright stars are the heads of the brothers, Castor and Pollux.

A fuzzy patch lies near the feet of the Gemini twins. NGC 2168 (or M35) is a pretty cluster of several hundred stars.








Cancer is often identified as a crab, but has also been seen as a lobster or crayfish. In Greek mythology, Cancer was placed in the heavens by Hera, wife of Zeus, to immortalize its tenacious but futile battle with Hercules. It is a much dimmer constellation than Gemini and hard to see in light-polluted skies.

Within Cancer lies the lovely Beehive Cluster, also known as NGC 2632, M44, or the Praesepe (Latin for trough or manger). Ancient stargazers called it "the cloudy star." This large cluster contains about 1000 stars and lies about 577 light years away from us. This grouping is only a few hundred million years old. That's compared to our Sun's age of four and a half billion years. Although the Beehive can be seen as a small fuzzy patch with unaided eyes under dark skies, it is best viewed with binoculars.


While the Beehive Cluster is visible in the first half of the night all month long, the best times to look for it are the first and last weeks of the month, as the Moon shines brightly mid-month in 2019, making faint objects like this cluster more difficult see.








The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.


The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."



Constellation: Cancer

NGC 2632                    Open Cluster               M44 Beehive Cluster

NGC 2682                    Open Cluster               M67

NGC 2775                    Galaxy                         C48, Herschel 400 H2-1


Constellation: Canis Major

IC 468                          Diffuse Nebula            P132

IC 2165                        Planetary Nebula         P133

NGC 2204                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H13-7

NGC 2207                    Galaxy                        P216

- IC 2163                    Galaxy                              - Interacting with P216

NGC 2217                    Galaxy                        P72

NGC 2243                    Open Cluster               P134

NGC 2287                    Open Cluster               M41

NGC 2345                    Open Cluster               P73

NGC 2354                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H16-7

NGC 2359                    Diffuse Nebula             P20 Thor’s Helmet

NGC 2360                    Open Cluster               C58, Herschel 400 H12-7

NGC 2362                    Open Cluster               C64, Herschel 400 H17-7 Tau Canis Major Cluster

NGC 2367                    Open Cluster               P74

NGC 2374                    Open Cluster               P75

NGC 2383                    Open Cluster               P135

NGC 2384                    Open Cluster               P76


Constellation: Canis Minor



Constellation: Lynx

NGC 2419                    Globular Cluster          C25, Herschel 400 H218-1

NGC 2683                    Galaxy                        Herschel 400 H200-1

NGC 2782                    Galaxy                        Herschel 400 H167-1


Constellation: Orion

IC 434                          Diffuse Nebula            P92 Horsehead Nebula

NGC 1662                    Open Cluster               P39

NGC 1788                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H32-5

NGC 1976                    Diffuse Nebula             M42 Great Orion Nebula

NGC 1977                    Open Cluster               P40 Running Man Nebular Cluster

     - NGC 1973             Diffuse Nebula                        - Part of P40

     - NGC 1975             Diffuse Nebula                        - Part of P40

NGC 1980                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H31-5

NGC 1981                    Open Cluster               P41

NGC 1982                    Diffuse Nebula             M43 DeMairan Nebula

NGC 1999                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H33-4

NGC 2022                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H34-4

NGC 2023                    Diffuse Nebula             P93

NGC 2024                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H28-5 Flame Nebula

NGC 2039                    Open Cluster               P94

NGC 2068                    Diffuse Nebula             M78

NGC 2071                    Diffuse Nebula             P42

NGC 2112                    Open Cluster               P170

NGC 2141                    Open Cluster               P171

NGC 2143                    Open Cluster               P172

NGC 2169                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H24-8

NGC 2175                    Open Cluster               P43

     - NGC 2174             Diffuse Nebula                        - Part of P43

     - IC 2159                 Diffuse Nebula                       - Part of P43

NGC 2186                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H25-7

NGC 2194                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H5-6


Constellation: Puppis

NGC 2298                    Globular Cluster          P98

NGC 2396                    Open Cluster               P99

NGC 2409                    Open Cluster               P100

NGC 2414                    Open Cluster               P101

NGC 2421                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H67-7

NGC 2422                    Open Cluster               M47, Herschel 400 H38-8

NGC 2423                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H28-7

NGC 2432                    Open Cluster               P241

NGC 2437                    Open Cluster               M46

NGC 2438                    Planetary Nebula          Herschel 400 H39-4 Part of M46

NGC 2439                    Open Cluster               P46

NGC 2440                    Planetary Nebula          Herschel 400 H64-4

NGC 2447                    Open Cluster               M93

NGC 2451                    Open Cluster               P47

NGC 2453                    Open Cluster               P176

NGC 2455                    Open Cluster               P242

NGC 2467                    Open Cluster               P102

NGC 2477                    Open Cluster               C71

NGC 2479                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H58-7

NGC 2482                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H10-7

NGC 2483                    Open Cluster               P103

NGC 2489                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H23-7

NGC 2509                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H1-8

NGC 2527                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H30-8

NGC 2533                    Open Cluster               P104

NGC 2539                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H11-7

NGC 2546                    Open Cluster               P48

NGC 2567                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H64-7

NGC 2568                    Open Cluster               P177

NGC 2571                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H39-6

NGC 2579                    Open Cluster               P105

NGC 2580                    Open Cluster               P178

NGC 2587                    Open Cluster               P179

NGC 2588                    Open Cluster               P243


Constellation: Pyxis

NGC 2613                    Galaxy                        Herschel 400 H266-2

NGC 2627                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H63-7

NGC 2635                    Open Cluster               P244

NGC 2658                    Open Cluster               P180

NGC 2818                    Planetary Nebula          P245



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Southern Latitudes:



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