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Thursday 22nd March Pedros Castle

Cayman Astronomical Society Newsletter for March 2007
(courtesy George Dalsheimer)

There is a Lunar Eclipse on March 3rd.

Our viewing is scheduled for March 22 at Pedro Castle.Time 7.00 pm

Daylight Savings Time in the US begins March 11, 2007

The Vernal Equinox occurs on March 21st (Astronomy Magazine has it on March 20th – not sure why). The spring equinox is the time when the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west for everyone on earth. In other words the Sun is directly over the equator. The word equinox means equal night but in fact the length of the day is actually longer than the length of night. This is because light from the sun can be seen before it rises and after it sets. Equality actually occurs several days before March 21st. Because of the location of objects in the sky at this time, it is possible to view all of the Messier Objects in one evening; of course you have to stay up all night. More about this later.

There will be many objects that can be viewed and below is a short list of some of the more obvious ones.

Moon – a sliver to the west.
Venus – close to the moon.
Andromeda Galaxy – setting and close to Venus (M31) Galaxy
Pleiades or Seven Sister. (M45) open cluster in Taurus

More overhead
Orion and Orion’s Belt Orion’s Nebulae (M 42) Nebula
Beehive Cluster (M 44) an open cluster of stars in Cancer

To the east
Whirlpool Galaxy (M 51)

The M numbers above refer to the Messier Catalogue and his numbering system. The March issue of Astronomy Magazine has a pull out section devoted to Messier. Charles Messier (1730-1817) was a French astronomer whose main interest was comets. However, he noted “cloudy” areas of the sky that did not move the way comets do. He began to make notes about these objects in 1758 and before he died he had listed 109 objects that are now called Messier Objects and numbered 1 to 109.

Some of the objects can be seen as smudges with the naked eye on a clear night. People with good eyesight can usually spot at least 20. Most of the objects can be seen with a good pair of binoculars. In fact some Messier objects, are best viewed through binoculars. As noted above, during the later part of March a good viewer can see all of the Messier Objects in one night. Astronomy clubs around the globe have Messier Parties to see how many objects they can see.

What are Messier Objects? To be continued.