Skywatch: Go galaxy hunting this week


When skies clear out this week, use the “Great Bear” or Ursa Major to help you find two galaxies.

Courtesy: NASA

Messier 81 is also called Bode’s Galaxy. This spiral galaxy is close to 12 million light-years away from us. That means the light we see from it has been traveling at roughly 186,000 miles per second for millions of years in order to reach our eyes.

Courtesy: NASA & ESA

Near M81 is the Cigar Galaxy or Messier 82. This galaxy is about as far from us as M81. Stars in this galaxy are forming at a higher rate than other galaxies which is why it’s known as a starburst galaxy. Both M81 and M82 can be seen with a set of good binoculars and will look like dim fuzzy patches of light. Use a telescope if you want to see the two more closely.

On Thursday night, look for the Full "Worm Moon" which officially arrives at 7:51 p.m. It gets its name from the fact that this is the time of year that earthworms begin crawling out of the ground as the winter thaw starts to arrive. It’s also called the Full Sap Moon. If you recall, in January, we had two Full Moons. The second Full Moon in a calendar month is called a “Blue Moon”. Because of the way things shaped up with January’s Blue Moon, we didn't see a Full Moon in February. As a result, we’ll see two Full Moons in March as well. According to NASA, the last time we had two Blue Moons in a given year was in 1999. It says Double Blue Moons only happen “about four times a century.” Get out and enjoy the first Full Moon Thursday night.

On Saturday evening, if you can get to a spot that has a decent view of the horizon, you can look for the two most inner planets in the solar system. Venus and Mercury will hang just above the horizon with Venus shining brightly and Mercury just to the right. Look in the west about 40 minutes after sunset. Happy hunting!