Night Sky Guide – Tonight’s Sky: March 2013
Highlights of the March Night Sky
Jupiter lies high above the western horizon after sunset. A telescope will reveal the gas planet’s dark – colored bands.
Constellations and Deep – Sky Objects
As the brilliant stars of winter progress toward the west, the constellations of spring make their appearance.
Two March constellations derived from Greek mythology, Gemini and Cancer, lie in the zodiac. The zodiac is the name for the band of sky through which the Sun, Moon, and planets appear to travel.
The Gemini twins lie high overhead. They were among Jason’s Argonauts, who sailed the seas searching for the Golden Fleece. The two bright stars are the heads of the brothers, Castor and Pollux. A fuzzy patch lies near the “feet” of the Gemini twins. Called M35, it is a pretty cluster of several hundred stars.
Cancer is often identified as a crab but has also been seen as a lobster or crayfish. In Greek mythology, Cancer was placed in the heavens by Hera, wife of Zeus, to immortalize its tenacious but futile battle with Hercules.
It is a much dimmer constellation than Gemini, and hard to see in light – polluted skies.
Within Cancer lies the lovely Beehive Cluster. Ancient stargazers called it “the cloudy star.” This large cluster contains hundreds of stars and lies about 577 light – years away from us.
Saturn rises by midnight and will be up for the rest of the night, climbing high into the southern sky before dawn. Use a telescope to see its rings.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Office of Public Outreach
Starfield images created with Stellarium
Mythological constellation forms from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
Jupiter image courtesy of Todd Gross
M35 image courtesy of N.A. Sharp/NOAO/AURA/NSF
Beehive Cluster image courtesy of the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network
Saturn image courtesy of John Endreson
Narrated by Nancy Calo
Music written by Jonn Serrie
Production: Lucy Albert, Greg Bacon, John Bintz, John Godfrey, Vanessa Thomas