Our mission is to inform, educate and entertain by providing a varied and interesting program of activities for our membership and the communities we serve. Our projects include educational programs and presentations by guest speakers and our members, public star parties, field observation of various astronomical events and trips to observatories and other space science venues. If you are as interested in Astronomy as we are, we hope you will join us at one of our star parties, meetings, or lectures. If you would like to become a member please click HERE.
Before college-basketball, television, and electricity gave humans something else to do after sunset, there was comet hunting. Astronomers scoured the night sky searching for faint patches of light which move against the background of stars – comets! But 18th century French Astronomer Charles Messier was frustrated to find many patches of light which did NOT move; so between 1758 and 1781 he documented 103 of these fuzzy patches to prevent confusing them with comets. His list, the “Messier Catalog,” now contains a total of 110 objects; including 7 that he observed but didn’t originally list. At the time, he did not know that he was actually documenting 27 open clusters, 29 globular clusters, 10 nebulae, 40 galaxies, 1 supernova remnant, 1 Milky Way patch, 1 double star, and 1 asterism. Not bad for a 4 inch telescope in the 18th century!
Every March, ALL 110 Messier objects can be seen in one night – an event called a “Messier Marathon.” So brew some coffee, and let’s explore the March sky….
The Solar System, March 2019
The vernal equinox occurs at 5:58 pm EDT on March 20, 2019. On this first day of spring, the direct rays of the sun fall on the earth’s equator, and we experience 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.
Also on March 20, the moon is full one day after reaching perigee (March 19), making it almost a Supermoon. The Farmer’s Almanac says that this 1st full-moon of spring has been called The Worm, Crow, or Sap Moon. The new moon is March 6.
You can find the planets this month by following the moon along its orbital path through the sky: it passes within 6 ° of Mars (in Aries) after sunset on March 11; then it passes within 2° of Jupiter (in Ophiuchus) in the early morning of March 26; and finally it passes less than 1° of Saturn (in Sagittarius) at dawn on March 29.
Stars and Deep Sky Objects, March 2019
There are several notable objects in and around the constellation Cancer (the Crab), a dim triangle of stars riding high over the southern horizon in March. It can be found surrounded by its brighter and more famous neighbors: Gemini to the west, the head of Hydra to the south, and Leo to the east. (See pdf.)
March Messier Madness (Marathon) 2019
The best nights for a Messier Marathon in 2019 are the weekends of March 9-10 and March 30-31. These dates will have the least interference from moonlight. You’ll need a clear and dark sky, a 360° unobstructed horizon, a telescope with low to medium power eyepieces, and a Messier Marathon Checklist* (a list of the objects in order of their occurrence in the sky from sunset to dawn). A pot of coffee, some healthy snacks, and a supportive (sympathetic?) family will also come in handy! Good luck!
*A good Messier Marathon checklist can be found online at:
The March meeting will be Monday, March 4, 2019 at the Clemson Central Library.
The April meeting will be Monday, April 1, 2019 at the Clemson Central Library.