Star search: Explore the realm of galaxies with the arrival of spring skies

Mar 23, 2022, 2:00 PM
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(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

With the spring season upon us, we look to the next dark of the moon or new moon, for some exciting objects to view in the telescope.

For many of us new to the science of visual astronomy, we may not have heard of the amazing clusters of galaxies which lie in our Arizona skies this time of year.

As the sun sets, look to the eastern sky for the rising spring constellation of Leo the Lion. This group of stars depicts a large lion in the sky and is one of the major zodiac signs in the heavens.

Follow the main bright stars of Leo and find the tail star. This is a naked eye star known as Denebola. Nearly 36 light years from Earth, Denebola is known as the tail of the lion.

Here is what the constellation Leo looks like with named stars.

Just to the left of this star, we come to one of few large clusters of galaxies in our spring skies.

The first of these is the great Virgo cluster.

This is a faint group of thousands of galaxies; which are visible to those who have a decent sized telescope on a dark and moon less night.

In this group of maybe 2,000 galaxies on an are of some 10 degrees of sky, there is a lot to view here.

Here is the visual location of the cluster.

More details on this galaxy cluster.

To view many of these amazing galaxies, my thought would be have at least a 6-inch or larger telescope mirror or refractor type telescope, as many of these objects require this and dark skies.

Tips on how best to observe faint galaxies in your telescope.

After you view this region of the sky and want to move on, may I suggest the next large galaxy cluster to the upper left of Leo the Lion.

This is the elusive Coma galaxy cluster.

Here is a basic star chart of the region.

The region is rich with many unusual galaxies and related star clusters. Many of these objects are well over 20 million light years from Earth and reveal some of the very early conditions after the Big Bang!

The Coma cluster is revealed in detail here.

Many of you might be familiar with a catalog of celestial objects, like galaxies and nebula known as the Messier Catalog.

There are at least 110 objects in this catalog, developed by the French comet observer Charles Messier around 1781.

Many of the famous Messier objects lie within these galaxy clusters. To help you identify which Messier objects are there, we suggest this.

Good luck in your exploration of the incredible fins in our spring skies!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

Podcasts are available here.

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Star search: Explore the realm of galaxies with the arrival of spring skies