Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2000 March 11
Explanation: Gripped by an astronomical spring fever, it's once again time for many amateur stargazers to embark on a Messier Marathon! The Vernal Equinox occurs March 20, marking the first day of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks a favourable celestial situation for potentially viewing all the objects in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier's catalogue in one glorious dusk to dawn observing run. This year a bright full moon will interfere with dark skies near the actual equinox, so good nights near new moon for weekend marathoners are March 11/12 and April 1/2. (As an added bonus all the planets in the solar system can be viewed on these dates.) Astronomer Paul Gitto has created this masterful Messier Marathon grid with 11 rows and 10 columns of Messier catalogue objects. In numerical order, the grid begins with M1, the Crab Nebula, at upper left and ends with M110, a small elliptical galaxy in Andromeda (lower right). Gitto's images were made with a digital camera and a 10-inch diameter reflecting telescope.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.