The partially eclipsed Moon rising
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March

What can you see

... at a glance

March is the first month of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and the month of the equinox when the day equals to the night. In March, the Sun sets from about 8pm at the beginning of the month and 7:15 at the end of the month and rises around 7am at the beginning of the month and 7:30 at the end of it. The real night (astronomical night) lasts about 7 hours. At sunset, the skyscape is marked by the stars of Orion and the Magellanic Clouds that are now on the western horizon.  

Check out here sunrise and sunset times at your location from Timeanddate.com

The Pleiades are preparing for their journey to the underworld, leaving behind in the southern sky their doppelgänger, the Southern Pleiades. The Milky Way arches across the sky reaching zenith in the evening hours and there are some amazing binocular objects in the sky scattered among the stars between Orion and the Southern Cross.

The equinox falls on a Monday, the 21st of March around 3 PM. 
The galactic centre is slowly coming back into the sky, rising as Orion sets.
Zodiacal constellations of the evening sky are: TAURUS, GEMINI, CANCER, LEO
Carina-Southern Cross region and the Large Magellanic Cloud are in a very good position to observe. 

March

  • Has the brightest stars in the night sky
  • Is the month when for one day the night is equal to the day
  • Autumn starts
  • The days will become shorter than the nights after the equinox.

Last chance to observe

In the west, the Pleiades, Aldebaran and the Hyades are low on the horizon.

New Arrivals 

On the eastern horizon, look out for Corvus, and later on in the night for Virgo and later at night for Scorpius rising.

The constellation of Canis Major is high in the sky and around it is a bunch of fantastic deep sky objects. The first is the big open cluster known as M41. It’s 4 degree to the south of the bright star Sirius and a beautiful cluster to look at in both telescopes and binoculars. Towards the Milky Way from Canis Major you’ll find the two open clusters of M47 and M46 in the constellation of Puppis. M47 is the brighter of the two and a nice cluster to browse around. M46 is a bit fainter and looks fantastic in a telescope. If you a reasonable sized telescope you can also catch the planetary nebula NGC 2438, which looks like a little grey bubble towards the northern edge of the cluster. The Large Magellanic Cloud is getting higher in the evening sky putting the stunning Tarantula Nebula in a great position to view. This is an enormous nebula and you can spend ages exploring it and the surrounding features of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

If you want to check out some galaxies then the Fornax Cluster is still high enough to enjoy in the constellation called Fornax. Another nice galaxy to check out is between the two Magellanic Clouds in the Reticulum constellation, called NGC 1313 or the Topsy Turvy Galaxy. In a big telescope you’ll see quite a bit of structure in the spiral arms of this starburst galaxy.

A few of our favourite things

 

Always check out the sunset /sunrise and moonset / moonrise times and of course what is in the sky this month.

When can you see them

The Sun

From 7AM to 8PM

The Sun is transiting Aquarius from 17th of February to 11th of March and Pisces from 12th March to 8th April. This means these constellations are not visible as they are behind the blaze of the Sun.

Sunrise: 7AM on the first day of March, 7:20AM mid-March and 7:30 at the end

Sunset: 8PM on 1st of March, 7:40PM mid month and 7:20PM at the end of it. This month  is the Vernal  Equinox, when the day equals to the night. 

The Moon

For stargazing, you must know what phase of the Moon it is. The Moon makes light pollution which washes out most deep sky objects so what you can see through a telescope when the Moon is in the sky is different than when the Moon is not.

Myth

Only planets have moons. No.

Things that are  smaller than planets can have moons as well. Asteroids can have moons and they can be only a few kilometers across and have a smaller asteroid orbiting them. 

 

Cool stuff to see this month

At nightfall, half of our galaxy, the Milky Way, arches across the night sky from North to South, like the arm of the legendary Te Wheke o Muturangi (the Octopus of Muturangi). This octopus stole the bait and the fishooks of Kupe, who lived in Hawaiki; a chase across the Pacific Ocean followed and New Zealand was re-discovered again, as it was first found by Maui according to the Polynesians. Kupe’s wife, Hine-te-Aparangi saw a long cloud in the distance, a sign that land was near and she named it Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud. And cloudy it can get sometimes! The amazing movie we made right here in New Zealand, Ngā Tohunga Whakatere  - The Navigators has beautiful scenes that describe this.

And talking about Māori starlore, at the fringe of our milky city of stars, Milky Way, on the north-western horizon, the Pleiades, are preparing for the journey to the underworld. They are to disappear shortly behind the Sun and will stay there for a while. They will reappear in the morning sky in June after the longest night as Matariki, the eye of the Ariki, star cluster that marks the Māori New Year. Māori have different names for the same stars at different times throughout the year, and the Pleiades too get to have three names throughout the year, in different seasons.

Sirius and Canopus reach the meridian almost in the same time, at the beginning of the month around 9:30 PM, by the middle of the month, they reach meridian around 8:30 PM, and 7:30 at the end of the month. It’s really awesome to watch how fast they shift through the sky in March, as the Earth revolves around the Sun and our vantage point changes, we can see that in just one month. Sirius is North of Zenith (overhead) and Canopus is south of Zenith.

In the meantime, just after sunset, the Southern Cross will be at the nine o’clock position on the South Celestial Circle. The Southern Cross is a circumpolar asterism, it never sets, nor rises from this latitude, only gets washed away by the light from the Sun. High above our galaxy, Canopus marks the midpoint between its center and its edge.

Brightest stars north of overhead

The brightest stars in the night sky: starting in the west is Aldebaran in Taurus, Castor and Pollux in Gemini, Canis Minor, Orion’s stars, and Canis Major.

South of overhead

Canopus, Carinae stars: The False Cross, the Diamond Cross and the Southern Cross, and last but not least, Alpha and BetaCentauri, The Pointer Stars.

Staying on the southwest part of the sky and halfway through from the horizon is Achernar.

If you would like to support science, you can take part in a programme called Globe at Night and become a Citizen Scientist.

It is very easy to contribute, all you have to do is count the number of stars you can see from your street or any other location you want, in a particular constellation and let Globe at Night know.

ORION and CRUX (this will open a page on Globe at Night). 

Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations. It’s easy to get involved – all you need is computer or smart phone & follow these 6 Simple Steps!

M42 is relatively close to us at about 1400 light years which makes it one of the brightest nebulae in the sky. With a telescope the M42 can appear to have a greenish tint, unlike the bright red photos that are often published. It is estimated that M42 is about 24 light years across and that it is part of a much larger structure known as the Orion Molecular Cloud, which extends for about 10 degrees across the whole constellation of Orion. This cloud includes the famous Horse Head Nebula (B33), Flame Nebula (NGC 2024), M78 and Barnards Loop (Sharpless 2-276). Below is a photo Sam took of M42 a few years ago, it’s one of the most photographed objects due to its brightness and visibility in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

When we are not doing stargazing with the public or with our own telescopes, we turn to SLOOH to explore the Universe. If you are really passionate about astronomy, want to learn more or just expand your knowledge, SLOOH is the next level. See you there, make sure you join the Star Safari club and say hi. 

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What is SLOOH?

Patented technology to explore space.  Robotic, mountaintop, online telescopes, live 18+ hours per day.

Curated journey of discovery. Space is a vast wilderness and Slooh is like a national park, with trails and guides. 

Communal exploration of the Universe. Learn from fellow members using the telescopes.

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