Spring equinox

The Spring Equinox might be great for bird watchers, but it’s pretty slim pickings for astronomers. The list of things to look for isn’t as long as at other times of the year. Not that there’s nothing to see, of course!

Here’s my list of springtime objects. Remember, new Moon is the best time for seeing the dimmer targets such as the nebulas. Remember also that the size of the target will determine how well you’ll see it in any particular scope. Sometimes magnification isn’t your friend!

The list is ordered by the time targets pass the meridian – that is, their highest point of the night. So the Omega Nebula is starting to set after 6:45pm, so look for that one first. Also, depending where you live, some of these targets are “circumpolar”, meaning they don’t set at all.

To this list you can add a number of summer objects, as Orion is rising in the early morning even now. 

I’ve already seen a few photos of the Orion and Horsehead nebulas published by keen astronomers.

This picture is my attempt last month at the Sculptor Galaxy. I got it from the ASV’s dark sky site. This is highest at 1:15am on the 21st of September. I’ve seen it with binoculars from Kew, which proves you can see it from a pretty heavily light polluted area.

  • Diffuse nebula: M 17 - Omega Nebula (06:45 PM)
  • Globular cluster: M 22 - Sagittarius Cluster (07:00 PM)
  • Open cluster: M 11 - Wild Duck Cluster (07:15 PM)
  • Planetary Nebula: M 57 - Ring Nebula (07:15 PM)
  • Globular cluster: NGC 6723 - Chandelier Cluster (07:20 PM)
  • Open cluster: Cr 399 - Brocchi's Cluster (07:50 PM)
  • Double star: HIP 95947 - Albireo (07:58 PM)
  • Galaxy: NGC 6822 - Barnard's Galaxy (08:10 PM)
  • Globular cluster: M 15 - Pegasus Cluster (09:55 PM)
  • Planetary nebula: NGC 7293 - Helix Nebula (10:55 PM)
  • Globular cluster: NGC 104 - 47 Tucanae (12:50 AM)
  • Galaxy: M 31 - Andromeda Galaxy (01:10 AM)
  • Galaxy: NGC 253 - Sculptor Galaxy (01:15 AM)
  • Galaxy: NGC 292 - Small Magellanic Cloud (01:20 AM)
  • Double star: Rho Eridani - Cat's Eyes (02:05 AM)