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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2023

Posted by Guy Pirro   03/04/2023 05:15AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2023

M42 and M43 -- Separated from the Orion Nebula (M42) by only a dark lane of dust, M43 was recognized as a distinct nebula by the French astronomer Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan in 1731. A massive star is illuminating M43 and sculpting its landscape of dust and gas with its radiation. Astronomers call the area a miniature Orion Nebula because of its small size and the single star that is shaping it. The Orion Nebula itself is much larger and has four hefty stars that are carving the dust-and-gas terrain. Both nebulas are part of the massive stellar nursery called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which includes several other nebulas, such as the Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) and the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024). At the center of this view of M43 sits the massive star that is warping the gas and dust around it. Located 1600 light-years from Earth, M43 has an apparent magnitude of 9 and can be spotted through a small telescope. [Video and Content Credits: NASA, the Office of Public Outreach – Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), JPL – Caltech, Preston Dyches, Christopher Harris, and Lisa Poje with subject matter guidance provided by Bill Dunford, Gary Spiers, and Lyle Tavernier] [Image Credit: Gordon Hansen, Astromart Gallery Contributor - Orion ED80, Modified Canon 10D - Image is a mosiac of stacks consisting of 7x300 sec, 8x120, 7x60, and 3x15 sec at ISO800]


Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of March 2023

Welcome to the night sky report for March 2023 -- 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, the Beehive Cluster (M44), and NGC 3923, an oblong elliptical galaxy with an interesting ripple pattern. Find the Y-shaped constellation Taurus, the bull, high in the southwest. The Hyades star cluster forms the bull's face. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.

As winter turns into spring, the sky transitions 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.



Look high in the southwest on March evenings and you'll find the tall, Y-shaped constellation Taurus, the bull. And at the center of Taurus, forming the bull's face, is a grouping of stars known as the Hyades star cluster. It's the closest open star cluster to our solar system, containing hundreds of stars.

An open cluster is a group of stars that are close together in space and loosely bound together by their mutual gravity. These are stars that formed together around the same time, from the same cloud of dust and gas. Over time they blow away that leftover nebula material and drift apart. Because of this and their open, or diffuse, structures, they're called "open" clusters. Our own Sun formed in a cluster like this, and studying these structures helps us understand how stars form and evolve.

Another well-known open cluster is the Pleiades, which is also located in Taurus. The Hyades and the Pleiades are actually about the same size, at about 15 or so light-years across. But the Pleiades is about 3 times farther away, so it appears more compact.

You don't need a telescope to find the Hyades. Look for this V-shaped grouping of stars in Taurus. Use the stars of Orion's belt as a handy pointer, leading you to bright orange Aldebaran. (Aldebaran isn't actually part of the star cluster. It's located halfway to the Hyades, and just happens to be visible in the foreground.)

So check out the Hyades in March, where you'll see a handful of stars with the unaided eye, and more than a hundred with binoculars.

March skies contain several easy-to-find, bright stars that are known to have planets of their own orbiting around them. Locate these distant "suns" for yourself and you'll know you're peering directly at another planetary system.

First is Epsilon Tauri, the right eye of Taurus the bull. This orange dwarf star has a gas giant planet around 8 times the mass of Jupiter. Next is 7 Canis Majoris. This is the star at the heart of the dog constellation that contains blazing bright Sirius. This star is known to have two planets: a gas giant nearly twice the mass of Jupiter and another just a little smaller than Jupiter.

Moving on, we find Tau Geminorum, the star at the heart of Castor – northern-most of the twins in Gemini. Tau Geminorum has a huge gas giant planet 20 times the mass of Jupiter in an orbit only slightly larger than that of Earth. And finally, wheeling around to the north, is Beta Ursae Minoris, the brightest star in the bowl of the Little Dipper. This star has a 6-Jupiter-mass planet in orbit around it.

Researchers believe that most stars have a family of planets orbiting them, because forming planets is a natural part of forming stars. Now you know how to find a few of them yourself, no telescope required.

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: 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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