Astronomy Guide to the Night Sky – March 2018

Astronomy Guide with the Newbury Astronomical Society

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To help the beginner to the hobby of Astronomy the chart above shows the night sky looking south at about 20:00 GMT on 15th March.  West is to the right and east to the left.  The point in the sky directly overhead is known as the Zenith and is shown at the upper centre of the chart.  The curved brown line across the sky at the bottom is the Ecliptic or Zodiac.  This is the imaginary line along which the Sun, Moon and planets appear to move across the sky.  The constellations through which the ecliptic passes are known as the constellations of the ‘Zodiac’.
Constellations through which the ecliptic passes this month are: Pisces (the Fishes), Aries (the Ram), Taurus (the Bull), Gemini (the Twins), Cancer (the Crab), Leo (the Lion) and Virgo (the Virgin) is just appearing over the eastern horizon.
The Milky Way (our Galaxy) appears to rise up from the southern horizon.  It continues up through the constellations of Monoceros, Orion, Gemini, Auriga, Perseus and into Cassiopeia (just off the top right of the chart).
Our theme for this month is ‘Galaxies’ and this time of year is the best time to look for galaxies.  A larger telescope is required to see any of the galaxies except M31 the Great Spiral Galaxy in the constellation of Andromeda.  M31 can still be seen using a smaller telescope or even a good pair of binoculars.  It is in the north western sky early in the evening, see the chart on the last page.
There are many galaxies in the Virgo Cluster which is centred on the space between the constellations of Leo, Virgo and Coma Berenices on the left side of the chart.  This time of the year is referred to as the time of the galaxies because the cluster is in view.
Orion is still dominating the evening sky and is easy to find in the south western sky.  The familiar shape of Orion the Hunter is followed across the sky by his hunting dogs Sirius and Procyon.
To the north of Orion are the fairly obvious constellations of Taurus and Gemini.  To the North West and sitting astride the ecliptic is the constellation of Taurus (the Bull).  The Taurus asterism (shape) looks like a squashed cross ‘X’.  At the centre of the cross is a large, faint and dispersed Open Cluster, the Hyades.  It has the bright Red Giant star Aldebaran in the centre.  The real beauty of Taurus is the naked eye Open Cluster M45 the Pleiades.
To the north of M45 (the Pleiades cluster in Taurus) is a line of stars defining the constellation of Perseus.  The whole asterism (shape) of Perseus looks like a horse rider’s stirrup.  At the top of the line of stars is the beautiful object ‘the Double Cluster’ best seen using binoculars.
Following Taurus along the ecliptic is Gemini (the Twins).  The twin stars Pollux and Castor are easy to find.  There is a lovely Messier Open Cluster M35 in Gemini just off the end of the line of stars emanating from the bright star Castor.  Castor is a double star when seen in a telescope.
To the east of Gemini is the faint and rather indistinct constellation of Cancer (the Crab).  The asterism (shape) of Cancer looks quite uninteresting but the Open Cluster Messier 44 (M44) Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster looks beautiful and like a swarm of bees around an old style straw hive when seen using binoculars.  Following Cancer is Leo (the Lion) the ‘constellation of the month’ this month.

Follow this link to see the full ‘Monthly What’s Up’ guide to the night sky:

To see a full version of this article and a guide to the night sky with charts, read the Newbury Astronomical Society (NAS) – Monthly Magazine for Beginners on the NAS website or come along to the next Beginners meeting on 21st March 2018, for details click on the link below.

For details visit the NAS website at:

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