Astronomy Picture of the Day

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.

March 18, 1999
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Messier Marathon
Credit & Copyright: P. Gitto

Explanation: Gripped by an astronomical spring fever, this week many amateur stargazers embark on a Messier Marathon. The Vernal Equinox occurs Saturday, March 20, marking the first day of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks a favorable celestial situation for potentially viewing all the objects in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier's catalog in one glorious dusk to dawn observing run. This year, interference from bright moonlight will be minimal as the the moon is near its dark or new phase. Astronomer Paul Gitto has created this masterful Messier Marathon grid with 11 rows and 10 columns of Messier catalog 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.

Tomorrow's picture: Mapping Mars

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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