March 2, 2018

Night Sky:
Blue Moons, Galaxies and More Night Sky Highlights for March


2nd Blue Moon of the year happens in March

The last full moon we saw was on January 31, and it also happened to be the second full moon for the month making it a “Blue Moon!”  February had a Black Moon (no full moon) and March starts out with a full moon on the 1st, followed by a Blue Moon on the March 31. Don’t try to read anything into this event (unless you happen to be a werewolf) - the moon takes 29.5 days to orbit the Earth and it’s just a quirk of our calendar that February had a Black Moon.


This is Messier 81, Bode’s Galaxy.  

You might remember last month we discussed that M82 and M81 passed very close to each other 300 million years ago.  The gravitational interaction is believed to have started M82’s rapid star formation.  M81 is 12 million light years away.


 


M81 and M82 as seen from Waves, NC! You can view both objects through binoculars!

Other things you can look for March 2018.

Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn will follow each other across the night skies starting around 11:35 p.m. on the night of March 1. Mars will follow Jupiter about an hour later, and Saturn will be the last to appear at 2:58 a.m. 

Venus and Mercury both start the month visible near the Western horizon right after sunset.

Uranus is visible throughout March if you have very good binoculars or a telescope.

If you’re a big fan of the Messier Catalog, the annual Messier Marathon takes place in March.  The Messier Marathon consists of trying to view all 110 Deep Space Object’s (DSO) in the Catalog in one evening!  That gives you about 6 minutes to find and view each DSO.  I don’t do Messier Marathon’s, but if it sounds like your thing, please let us know how you do!

Moon Phases:

1st Full Moon is March 1
Last Quarter is March 9
New Moon is March 17
1st Quarter is March 24
2nd Full Moon (Blue Moon) is March 31

(Gerry Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, D.C.  He has visited Hatteras Island since the mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.  Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky through e-mail, [email protected]g.)




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