Top 10 Deep-Sky Objects of March 2024

~5 min

March is a special month for deep-sky enthusiasts. First, it marks the beginning of “galaxy season” — from March to June, many prominent galaxies will be well-positioned for observation in the night sky. Also, in March, the famous Messier marathon begins — people from all over the world will try to observe as many objects from the Messier catalog as possible during one night. In our article, you’ll learn about 10 bright deep-sky objects that you can see this month. We've arranged the objects from faintest to brightest. All of the objects can be found in the sky using the Sky Tonight astronomy app.

Contents

10. Owl Nebula

Owl Nebula
  • Alternative names: M97, NGC 3587
  • Apparent size: 3.4′ × 3.3′
  • Apparent magnitude: 9.9
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Because of its small size and faint magnitude, the Owl Nebula is extremely difficult to spot with binoculars. You should use at least a three- or four-inch telescope to observe it.
  • Description: M97 is a planetary nebula discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781. It is known as the Owl Nebula because of its most famous feature — a pair of dark “eyes” that seem to be peering at the observer.

9. NGC 2903

NGC 2903
  • Alternative names: PGC 27077, UGC 5079
  • Apparent size: 11.48′ × 5.25′
  • Apparent magnitude: 9.0
  • Constellation: Leo
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: In 10x50 binoculars, NGC 2903 will appear as a tiny smudge. A four- to six-inch telescope can help you see more details.
  • Description: NGC 2903 is an isolated barred spiral galaxy discovered by William Herschel in 1784. Some astronomers consider it “the best galaxy that’s not in Messier’s list”.

8. NGC 2403

NGC 2403
  • Alternative names: Caldwell 7
  • Apparent size: 21.9′ × 12.3′
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.9
  • Constellation: Camelopardalis
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: NGC 2403 is bright enough to be seen with large binoculars. A small telescope can help you see the galaxy’s spiral structure.
  • Description: NGC 2403 is an intermediate spiral galaxy discovered by William Herschel in 1788. Visually, it bears a similarity to the Triangulum Galaxy (M33).

7. Cigar Galaxy

Cigar Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M82, NGC 3034
  • Apparent size: 11.2′ × 4.3′
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.41
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M82 might be challenging to spot with binoculars, but it’s still possible. It will look like a tiny smudge of light (with a brighter smudge, the M81 galaxy, nearby). It’s better to use an 8-inch telescope to observe the Cigar Galaxy.
  • Description: M82 is a spiral galaxy discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774. It’s a so-called starburst galaxy that creates stars at a rate tens or even hundreds of times faster than normal galaxies.

6. Pinwheel Galaxy

Pinwheel Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M101, NGC 5457
  • Apparent size: 28.8′ × 26.9′
  • Apparent magnitude: 7.9
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under dark skies, you can easily observe the Pinwheel Galaxy with 10x50 binoculars. Some astronomers even say this galaxy is easier to find with binoculars than with a telescope.
  • Description: M101 is a spiral galaxy discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781. It is quite a large galaxy (almost two times larger than our Milky Way), which contains around a trillion stars.

5. Bode’s Galaxy

Bode’s Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M81, NGC 3031
  • Apparent size: 26.9′ × 14.1′
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.9
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M81 is bright enough to be seen with a pair of binoculars. A minimum of an 8-inch telescope is required to see the galaxy’s structure.
  • Description: M81 is a spiral galaxy discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774. Because of its large size and relatively high brightness, Bode’s Galaxy became a popular target among amateur astronomers.

4. King Cobra Cluster

King Cobra Cluster (M67)
  • Alternative names: M67, NGC 2682, Golden Eye Cluster
  • Apparent size: 22.8′
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.1
  • Constellation: Cancer
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: You can spot M67 with 10x50 binoculars — it will look like an elongated patch of light. Small telescopes will help you see the cluster's brightest stars.
  • Description: M67 is an open star cluster discovered by Johann Gottfried Koehler in 1779. It contains over 500 stars and is estimated to be between 3.2 and 5 billion years old. Only a few Milky Way star clusters are older than M67.

3. M46

M46
  • Alternative names: NGC 2437
  • Apparent size: 22.8′
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.0
  • Constellation: Puppis
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Messier 46 cluster is easy to see with binoculars. Near M46, you can also spot another open cluster, M47 (mag 4.4); the two clusters fit well in a binocular field of view. Also, if you have a telescope, you can try to see the planetary nebula NGC 2438 (mag 10.8) within M46!
  • Description: M46 is an open star cluster discovered by Charles Messier in 1771. The cluster contains about 500 stars and is thought to be 251 million years old.

2. M48

M48
  • Alternative names: NGC 2548
  • Apparent size: 30′
  • Apparent magnitude: 5.8
  • Constellation: Hydra
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under good atmospheric conditions, the M48 cluster is visible to the naked eye. Almost any binoculars will show you several dozen of its stars.
  • Description: M48 is an open star cluster discovered by Charles Messier in 1771. The cluster contains about 80 stars and is estimated to be around 500 million years old.

1. The Beehive Cluster

Beehive Cluster (M44)
  • Alternative names: M44, NGC 2632
  • Apparent size: 95′
  • Apparent magnitude: 3.1
  • Constellation: Cancer
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under dark skies, the Beehive Cluster is luminous enough to be observed with the unaided eye, appearing as a fuzzy patch of light. However, we recommend using 10x50 binoculars or a small telescope to see the cluster more clearly.
  • Description: M44 is an open star cluster first observed through a telescope by Galileo Galilei in 1609. The cluster is about 600 million years old and contains around 1,000 stars.

March deep-sky objects: Bottom line

In March, you can see multiple deep-sky objects, including the Owl Nebula, Bode’s Galaxy, and Beehive Cluster. Many of them can be observed through binoculars, and some are visible even to the naked eye. Use the astronomy app Sky Tonight to locate any of these objects in the night sky. If you like deep-sky objects, take our fun quiz, where you'll need to guess a nebula's name by its photo!

Cat's Eye Nebula (question)
Astronomers are weird people and they often name things according to their strange ideas. Let’s see how weird you are – try to guess a nebula’s name from its picture!
Take the quiz!
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