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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2021

Posted by Guy Pirro   03/04/2021 12:50AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2021

M65 (NGC 3623) is a spiral galaxy with an apparent magnitude of 10.3. Charles Messier discovered it and its neighbor M66 on the same night in 1780. Located roughly 35 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo, M65 is a member of the Leo Triplet of galaxies. It can be spotted with a small telescope in the same field of view as the other members of the triplet (M66 and NGC 3628). [Video and Content Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI] [Image Credit: Adam Block, Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, University of Arizona using the 0.8m Schulman Telescope]



Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2021

Welcome to the night sky report for March 2021 -- 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 star clusters M35 and the Beehive Cluster (M44), as well as NGC 3923, an oblong elliptical galaxy with an interesting ripple pattern. Look for Mars close to the Pleiades in the first couple of weeks of March. Then wake up early to observe the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, which return as morning planets this month.


As winter turns into spring, the sky transitions as well with new starry sights to see. Orion with his shining belt still dominates the evening sky. Just past Orion’s raised arm lies the constellation of Gemini, also known as the Twins. In Greek mythology, the Twins accompanied Jason and the Argonauts on their expedition in search of the Golden Fleece.


The brightest stars in Gemini mark the heads of the twins, Castor and Pollux. Pollux is a yellowish giant swelling as it enters old age, and hosts a Jupiter-sized planet. Castor is a system of three pairs of stars bound in an intricate gravitational dance. At the feet of the Gemini brothers is a fuzzy patch that binoculars or a small telescope show to be a cluster of several hundred stars called M35.





Neighboring Gemini is the faint constellation of Cancer. Within the body of Cancer lies M44—the Beehive cluster, one of the nearest star clusters to Earth. This swarm of stars looks like a cloudy patch to the naked eye, but ground-based telescopes show a pleasing scatter of roughly 1000 stars.


Adjacent to Cancer lurks the head of Hydra, the water snake, the longest constellation in the sky. Distant galaxies like NGC 3923 reside along the snake’s coils. While NGC 3923 appears as a faint smudge in backyard telescopes, more powerful observatories reveal it to be a giant, oblong elliptical galaxy with an interesting ripple pattern.


Near the end of Hydra’s tail lies M83, a closer galaxy with a spiral shape. Also known as the Southern Pinwheel, the galaxy is a swirl of dark dust lanes, blue star clusters, and glowing pink star-forming clouds. An X-ray image reveals details that no human eye could ever see on its own: searing hot gases tracing the spiral arms, black holes and neutron stars emitting X-rays as they gobble up companions, and a core of concentrated black holes and neutron stars—the product of recent star formation.

In the first week or so of March, you'll find Mars near the Pleiades star cluster high in the west in the few hours after sunset. NASA's Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars on February 18th. In addition, orbiters from two other nations arrived in orbit around the Red Planet last month, making 2021 a truly international year of Mars exploration.




You may also notice a couple of other reddish objects forming a line with Mars – that is, the stars Aldebaran, which forms the angry eye of Taurus the bull, and Betelgeuse, the shoulder of Orion. And speaking of Betelgeuse, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories have determined the cause of the star's dimming last year was likely due to a cloud of dust ejected by the aging red giant. While scientists think the star has moved into burning helium, instead of hydrogen, in its core, they think it's unlikely to explode in a supernova anytime soon.


March 5

Friday morning, March 5, 2021, the bright star Antares will appear about 8 degrees below the waning gibbous Moon. Antares will rise after the Moon in the southeast at 1:17 a.m. EST, and it will appear about 6 degrees to the lower left of the Moon as morning twilight begins and the Moon reaches its highest in the sky at 5:37 a.m.

Also on Friday morning, the planets Jupiter and Mercury will appear at their closest to each other as morning twilight begins, appearing about 1.5 degrees above the horizon in the east-southeast.


March 6

Saturday morning, March 6, 2021, will be when the planet Mercury reaches its greatest angular separation from the Sun as seen from the Earth for this apparition (called greatest elongation), appearing half-lit through a large enough telescope. Because the angle of the line between the Sun and Mercury and the horizon changes with the seasons, the date when Mercury and the Sun appear farthest apart as seen from the Earth is not the same as when Mercury appears highest above the horizon in the east-southeast as morning twilight begins, which occurred on the morning of Feb. 26, 2021.


March 9

Tuesday morning, March 9, 2021, the waning crescent Moon and the planets Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury, will appear near the horizon from the southeast to the east-southeast. As morning twilight begins the Moon will appear on the right in the southeast at about 7 degrees above the horizon, with Saturn about 8 degrees to the left of the Moon in the east-southeast at about the same elevation above the horizon. The bright planet Jupiter will appear farther to the lower left at about 3 degrees above the horizon and Mercury will appear to the lower left of Jupiter at only 1 degree above the horizon.


March 10

By Wednesday morning, March 10, 2021, the waning crescent Moon will appear to have shifted to below and about halfway between Jupiter and Saturn in the east-southeast. As morning twilight begins, Saturn will appear on the right at about 8 degrees above the horizon, the Moon will appear to the lower left of Saturn only about a degree above the horizon, Jupiter will appear to the upper left of the Moon at 3 degrees above the horizon, and Mercury will appear farthest to the left at less than a degree above the horizon.

At about 6:45 a.m. EST (2021-Mar-10 11:45 UTC with 36 minutes uncertainty), Near-Earth Object (2021 CF6), between 152 to 339 feet (46 and 103 meters) across, will pass the Earth at between 4.1 and 4.2 lunar distances (nominally 4.2), traveling at 18,700 miles per hour (8.36 kilometers per second).


March 11

Thursday morning, March 11, 2021, will be the last morning Mercury will appear above the east-southeastern horizon at the time morning twilight begins, although Mercury should continue to be visible after it rises until about 30 minutes before sunrise.


March 14

Sunday, March 14, 2021, is the first day of Daylight Savings Time. Don't forget to reset your clocks and "Spring Forward."


March 18

Thursday, March 18, 2021, at 1:03 a.m. EDT, the Moon will be at apogee, its farthest from the Earth for this orbit.


March 19

On Friday night, March 19, 2021, the waxing crescent Moon, the planet Mars, and the bright star Aldebaran will form a triangle in the evening sky. Mars will appear about 3 degrees to the lower right of the Moon with Aldebaran appearing about 6 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. Aldebaran will set first in the west-northwest early Saturday morning at 12:51 a.m.


March 20

Saturday morning, March 20, 2021, at 5:37 a.m. EDT, will be the spring or vernal equinox, the astronomical end of winter, and the start of spring. From on the equator in eastern Kenya the Sun will appear to pass directly overhead, moving from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere.

Saturday evening, the planet Mars and the bright star Aldebaran will appear closest to each other, slightly under 7 degrees apart.



March 22-23

On Monday evening into Tuesday morning, March 22 to 23, 2021, the bright star Pollux, the brighter of the twin stars in the constellation Gemini, will appear above the waxing gibbous Moon. Pollux will appear about 7 degrees to the upper left of the Moon as evening twilight ends at 8:20 p.m. EDT, close to when the Moon will be highest in the sky for the night. Pollux will appear about 5 degrees to the upper right of the Moon by the time the Moon sets in the west-northwest on Tuesday morning at 4:10 a.m. EDT.


March 25-26

On Thursday evening into Friday morning, March 25 to 26, 2021, the bright star Regulus will appear about 5 degrees below the waxing gibbous Moon. Regulus will appear to the lower right of the Moon as evening twilight ends at 8:23 p.m. EDT. By the time the Moon reaches its highest in the sky for the night at 11:08 p.m. EDT – Regulus will appear nearly below the Moon. Regulus will set first in the west-northwest on Friday morning at 5:43 a.m. EDT.

On Friday morning, the planet Venus will be passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth, called superior conjunction. Because Venus orbits inside of the orbit of Earth, Venus will be shifting from the morning sky to the evening sky. Venus will begin emerging from the glow of dusk on the western horizon after about April 23, 2021.



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

NGC 2367                    Open Cluster               P74

NGC 2374                    Open Cluster               P75

NGC 2383                    Open Cluster               P135

NGC 2384                    Open Cluster               P76


Constellation: Crater

NGC 3962                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H67-1


Constellation: Gemini

IC 2157                        Open Cluster               P156

NGC 2129                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H26-8

NGC 2158                    Globular Cluster          Herschel 400 H17-6

NGC 2168                    Open Cluster               M35

NGC 2266                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H21-6

NGC 2304                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H2-6

NGC 2331                    Open Cluster               P157

NGC 2355                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H6-6

NGC 2371                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H316-2 (South)

     - Paired with H317-2

NGC 2372                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H317-2 (North)

     - Paired with H316-2

NGC 2392                    Planetary Nebula        C39, Herschel 400 H45-4 - Eskimo Nebula

NGC 2395                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H11-8

NGC 2420                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H1-6


Constellation: Hydra

NGC 2548                    Open Cluster               M48, Herschel 400 H22-6

NGC 2784                    Galaxy                         P87

NGC 2811                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H505-2

NGC 3109                    Galaxy                         P88

NGC 3242                    Planetary Nebula        C59, Herschel 400 H27-4 - Ghost of Jupiter Nebula

NGC 3585                    Galaxy                         P35

NGC 3621                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H241-1

NGC 3923                    Galaxy                         P89

NGC 4590                    Globular Cluster          M68

NGC 5236                    Galaxy                         M83 - Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

NGC 5694                    Globular Cluster          C66, Herschel 400 H196-2


Constellation: Leo

NGC 2903                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H56-1

NGC 2964                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H114-1

     - NGC 2968             Galaxy                              - Paired with H114-1

NGC 3190                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H44-2

     - NGC 3187             Galaxy                              - Paired with H44-2

NGC 3193                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H45-2

NGC 3226                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H28-2

     - Paired with H29-2

NGC 3227                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H29-2

     - Paired with H28-2

NGC 3351                    Galaxy                         M95

NGC 3368                    Galaxy                         M96

NGC 3377                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H99-2

NGC 3379                    Galaxy                         M105, Herschel 400 H17-1

NGC 3384                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H18-1

NGC 3412                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H27-1

NGC 3489                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H101-2

NGC 3521                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H13-1

NGC 3593                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H29-1

NGC 3607                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H50-2

     - Paired with H51-2

NGC 3608                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H51-2

     - Paired with H50-2

NGC 3623                    Galaxy                         M65

NGC 3626                    Galaxy                         C40, Herschel 400 H52-2

NGC 3627                    Galaxy                         M66

NGC 3628                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H8-5

NGC 3640                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H33-2

     - NGC 3641             Galaxy                              - Paired with H33-2

NGC 3655                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H5-1

NGC 3686                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H160-2

NGC 3810                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H21-1

NGC 3900                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H82-1

NGC 3912                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H342-2


Constellation: Leo Minor

NGC 2859                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H137-1

NGC 3245                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H86-1

NGC 3277                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H359-2

NGC 3294                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H164-1

NGC 3344                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H81-1

NGC 3395                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H116-1

     - NGC 3396             Galaxy                              - Interacting with H116-1

NGC 3414                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H362-2

NGC 3432                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H172-1

NGC 3486                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H87-1

NGC 3504                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H88-1

     - NGC 3512             Galaxy                              - Paired with H88-1           


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




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