Dear Stargazer Friends,

In the northern hemisphere, March brings the Vernal Equinox – the beginning of Spring on 20 March at 1037 CET (0937 UTC). Before that, on 4 March, the brightest asteroid visible from Earth, (4) Vesta will be at opposition in the constellation of Leo with a mean opposition magnitude of +5.74.

Planet Mars continues to be visible throughout the month – it will appear dimmer. But there are a few highlights such as on 3 March (Mars appears close to the Pleiades) and on 19-20 March with Mars and Aldebaran nicely aligned. Jupiter and Saturn will make a comeback in the early mornings shortly before dawn – if you live in the tropics and/or have a true horizon, you have good chances to see the Moon at conjunction with Mercury on 11 March before dawn – Jupiter and Saturn will be visible as well. The Pleiades continue to be visible all month and so will be the constellation of Orion as well as the constellation of Canis Major. Below you will find more detailed information and my picks for March. As always, enjoy the journey and come back for the April issue.

Best wishes,
Isa

Binary Star Sirius
Binary star Sirius α Canis Majoris

Spring Equinox (Vernal Equinox) is on 20 March at 1037 (time Bern, Switzerland) – 0937 UTC

Daylight Saving Time starts on Sunday, 28 March at 0200 (clocks shift forward 1 hour). If you live in the U.S., DST starts on 14 March already.

Moon phases

PhaseDate
Third Quarter 6 March, 02:30
New Moon13 March, 11:21
First Quarter21 March, 15:40
Full Moon28 March, 20:48
Moon phases March 2021 (time Lausanne, Switzerland)

Asteroid (4) Vesta

Weather permitting, we’ll be able to observe asteroid (4) Vesta at opposition in the constellation of Leo on 4 March 2021. Mean opposition magnitude: +5.74 – It can be observed over the following nights. The asteroid has a mean diameter of 525 km.

Orbit diagram Asteroid 4 Vesta on 28 Feb 2021 – Source: NASA JPL Small-Body Database Browser
Position Asteroid Vesta 4 March 2021 at 2138 (local time Bern, Switzerland)
Picture credit: Screenshot Stellarium.org

Planets

Mars continues to be visible in the constellation of Taurus throughout March but sets sooner.

3 March:      Mars appears close to the Pleiades 

19 March:    Mars, waxing Moon (around 30% illuminated) and variable star Aldebaran (alpha Tauri, Mag. 0.85) appear nicely aligned

20 March:    Mars and giant star Aldebaran appear 7 degrees apart. Aldebaran has a similar reddish colour as Mars, so comparing the two celestial objects will be interesting. In its evolutionary stage, Aldebaran is part of the so called “Red giant branch”. Stars of that branch “have low surface temperatures and high luminosities which, according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law, means they also have large radii. Stars enter this evolutionary stage once they have exhausted the hydrogen fuel in their cores and have started to burn helium and other heavier elements.” Citation source: COSMOS – The SAO Encyclopedia of Astronomy

Other Planets: As the month progresses, Jupiter and Saturn will become visible again in the predawn sky. 

10 March:    If you have a true horizon and/or live in the tropics, enjoy the view of Jupiter, waning crescent Moon, Saturn and Mercury in the predawn sky (SE).

11 March:    The Moon will be at conjunction with Mercury at predawn/dawn (SE) – from my location, I won’t be able to see this beautiful sight, but hopefully you are.

Uranus: visible throughout the month, early evenings (W).

Moon conjunctions with bright
stars (<5 mag.), Planets and Star Clusters

5 March 0445: The Moon will be in conjuction with Acrab and beta 2 Sco (constellation of Scorpius) and will also appear close to Antares (α Sco) – a so called “red supergiant” star. Look southward.

17 March 1935: Moon conjunction with variable star Menkar (α Cet) (separation +5°02’11.6”) – Uranus will appear below right of the of the Moon

19 March: Waxing Moon (around 30% illuminated), Planet Mars and variable star Aldebaran (alpha Tauri, Mag. 0.85) appear nicely aligned

Meteor shower

No major Meteor Showers in March (Class I). Next show will be the Lyrids starting 14 April and lasting till 30 April 2021. For further reference check the 2021 Meteor Shower List of the American Meteor Society

Galaxies

The Leo Triplet (M66 Group) in the Constellation of Leo continues to be well visible in March. Here is a selection of other Galaxies of interest to observe: 

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.SetAng. Size
M 31 (Andromeda Galaxy)3.442h40m13h39m+84°25’23.45″0h38m+2°05’24.00″
M 33 (Triangulum Galaxy)5.725h45m14h30m+73°49’00.13″23h15m+0°55’09.00″
M 81 (Bode’s Galaxy)6.9422h54m+67°58’45.21″+0°20’30.00″
M 82 (Cigar Galaxy)8.4122h54m+67°21’56.24″+0°07’45.00″
M 66 (Leo Triplet)8.9217h17m0h18m+55°56’17.55″7h19m+0°06’39.00″
M 94 (Croc’s Eye Galaxy)8.2415h00m1h49m+84°02’49.46″12h38m+0°10’09.00″
M 64 (Black Eye Galaxy)8.5218h09m1h55m+64°37’32.17″9h40m+0°07’55.14″
M 63 (Sunflower Galaxy)8.5914h57m2h14m+84°57’18.72″13h30m+0°09’54.00″
M 51 (Whirlpool Galaxy)8.102h28m+89°33’51.67″+0°09’03.00″
M 101 (Pinwheel Galaxy)7.863h01m+82°41’24.17″+0°27’51.00″
On 15 March 2021 – Source: Stellarium.org

Star clusters and Deep Sky objects

The Pleiades will continue to be visible in March but will set soon after midnight. Coma Berenices Cluster is impressive to observe and to take pictures of. Here some picks for March – here an overview of 15 March (all visible to the naked eye and with binoculars):

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.SetAng. Size
M 45 (Pleiades)1.208h43m16h44m+67°13’52.60″0h44m+1°50’00.00″
C 41 (Hyades)0.5010h08m17h24m+58°58’01.44″0h40m+2°45’00.00″
Cr 39 (α Per Cluster)1.2016h24m+88°00’32.66″+5°00’00.00″
Cr 256 (Coma Berenices Cluster)1.8017h11m1h21m+68°47’01.56″9h30m+4°35’00.00″
NGC 869 (Double Cluster)3.8015h16m+79°43’09.07″+0°15’00.00″
NGC 884 (Double Cluster)3.8015h19m+79°43’22.99″+0°15’00.00″
NGC 1981 (Coal Car Cluster)4.2012h47m18h32m+38°38’49.83″0h17m+0°12’30.00″
NGC 2232 (Double Wedge Cluster)3.9013h41m19h24m+38°17’38.59″1h08m+0°14’30.00″
NGC 2281 (Broken Heart Cluster)5.408h56m19h46m+84°03’38.00″6h36m+0°07’30.00″
M 41 (Little Beehive Cluster)4.5015h14m19h43m+22°18’21.85″0h12m+0°19’30.00″
M 474.4015h34m20h34m+28°32’39.73″1h34m+0°12’30.00″
M 44 (Beehive Cluster)3.1014h03m21h38m+62°38’08.51″5h13m+0°35’00.00″
M 394.6010h27m+88°24’43.87″+0°15’30.00″
M 52 (Cassiopeia Salt-and-Pepper Cluster)6.9012h21m+75°14’33.58″+0°08’00.00″
On 15 March 2021 – Source: Stellarium.org
Star Cluster
Coma Berenices Cluster (Melotte 111) – Total 600s, ISO 1250. 23 February 2021 – picture (c) Isabel Streit 2021

Bright nebulae

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.SetAng. Size
M 45 (Pleiades)1.208h43m16h44m+67°13’52.60″0h44m+1°50’00.00″
NGC 1432 (Maia Nebula)3.888h42m16h43m+67°18’52.83″0h44m+0°50’00.00″
NGC 1435 (Merope Nebula)4.188h44m16h43m+67°00’53.56″0h42m+0°30’00.00″
M 42 (Great Orion Nebula)4.0012h51m18h32m+37°41’19.77″0h13m+1°15’00.00″
NGC 2238 (Rosette Nebula)9.0013h02m19h28m+48°05’34.30″1h54m+1°10’00.00″
NGC 6888 (Crescent Nebula)7.4023h05m9h07m+81°28’16.70″19h09m+0°15’00.00″
NGC 7000 (North America Nebula)4.009h54m+87°27’31.41″+1°50’00.00″
NGC 7023 (Iris Nebula)6.809h56m+68°42’31.57″+0°09’00.00″
NGC 7380 (The Wizard Nebula)7.2011h43m+78°42’24.74″+0°22’30.00″
IC 405 (Flaming Star Nebula)6.008h59m18h15m+77°26’18.98″3h31m+0°40’00.00″
IC 1396 (Elephant’s Trunk Nebula)3.5010h34m+79°21’55.04″+0°08’00.00″
IC 1805 (Heart Nebula)6.5015h30m+75°24’19.48″+1°00’00.00″
SH 2-2978.5014h52m20h02m+30°43’23.31″1h12m+0°10’00.00″
Ced 55r (Orion Loop Nebula)1.9112h29m18h42m+45°06’40.03″0h55m
On 15 March 2021 – Source: Stellarium.org
Orion Nebula
Orion Nebula and Running Man Nebula – picture (c) Isabel Streit 2021

Bright double stars

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.SetSep.
Sirius-1.4514h53m19h42m+26°19’57.90″0h31m+0°00’10.67″
Capella0.0518h14m+88°52’34.56″+0°00’00.05″
Procyon0.4014h10m20h37m+48°13’35.13″3h03m+0°00’03.80″
Betelgeuse0.4512h16m18h52m+50°28’01.68″1h29m+0°00’00.06″
Aldebaran0.8510h14m17h33m+59°36’13.36″0h52m+0°00’31.02″
Pollux1.1512h18m20h43m+71°00’41.56″5h07m+0°00’39.82″
Deneb1.259h37m+88°24’03.33″+0°01’15.55″
Regulus1.3516h10m23h06m+54°54’40.24″6h03m+0°02’55.10″
Adhara1.5016h16m19h56m+14°06’34.21″23h35m+0°00’07.86″
Bellatrix1.6011h50m18h22m+49°25’34.27″0h54m+0°02’58.00″
Elnath1.659h54m18h23m+71°40’00.98″2h53m+0°00’33.40″
Alnilam1.6512h34m18h33m+41°52’26.76″0h32m+0°02’59.34″
Mirfak1.7516h21m+86°58’19.72″+0°02’43.98″
Alioth1.751h52m+81°05’49.80″+0°00’00.11″
Alnitak1.8512h42m18h38m+41°07’53.95″0h34m+0°00’02.36″
Menkalinan1.9018h57m+87°53’20.34″+0°00’00.00″
Alhena1.9012h17m19h35m+59°25’49.26″2h53m+0°00’00.38″
Castor1.9011h39m20h32m+74°52’25.52″5h26m+0°00’05.24″
Polaris1.9515h54m+47°36’39.19″+0°00’00.17″
Mirzam1.9514h36m19h20m+25°06’50.64″0h03m+0°03’06.64″
Alphard1.9516h59m22h25m+34°18’55.75″3h51m+0°04’42.25″
Dubhe2.000h02m+75°18’41.13″+0°00’00.68″
Alpheratz2.054h31m13h04m+72°15’31.42″21h38m+0°00’00.01″
Mirach2.054h37m14h06m+78°46’39.95″23h36m+0°00’29.91″
Algol2.055h15m16h05m+84°03’54.15″2h55m+0°00’58.51″
Kochab2.053h48m+62°53’07.64″+0°03’33.99″
Denebola2.1017h38m0h47m+57°30’55.67″7h56m+0°00’39.74″
Navi2.1513h53m+76°07’07.48″+0°00’02.07″
Almach2.153h13m15h00m+85°27’32.81″2h48m+0°00’09.75″
Shedar2.2013h37m+80°17’36.61″+0°00’24.01″
Algieba2.2015h42m23h18m+62°46’25.90″6h53m+0°00’04.69″
Mizar2.202h22m+82°07’29.23″+0°00’14.45″
Eltanin2.206h55m+85°25’08.83″+0°00’20.95″
Caph2.2513h05m+77°40’42.32″+0°01’06.10″
On 15 March 2021 – Source: Stellarium.org

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