Welcome to March! Let's keep our monthly series of targets going with five new astrophotography objects you can capture this month!
Below you will find 5 deep sky objects that are at their highest elevation in March. If you don't see a popular object listed below, don't worry! It is most likely featured in a different month as we are doing this guide for every month of the year and are making sure we avoid duplicates.
In order to make sure you find some inspiration no matter your skill level, we will go over three easy objects and will add two more difficult targets for the more experienced amateur astrophotographers at the end.
Make sure to watch our video guide on YouTube for more information and a bit of fun!
Want more inspiration for Spring targets? Read our full guide about the 15 best Spring Astrophotography targets!
5 MARCH Astrophotography targets:
M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy
M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy
The Leo Triplet
The M95 Group
M64 - The Black Eye Galaxy
The first object in this list will be Messier 101, which also happens to be the very first deep sky object ever featured on our YouTube channel, for Episode 1 of Galactic Hunter!
M101, also know as the Pinwheel galaxy, is a spiral galaxy seen face-on. It has a very low surface brightness, making it difficult to observe through an instrument, but is very easy to capture with a camera! M101 has many interesting features, and is also home to several star forming regions, visible when photographed with an HA filter.
The image below is a zoomed-in version from our latest attempt at capturing this galaxy with a very small refractor telescope!
Slightly more difficult than M101 but still a beginner object is Messier 63, the Sunflower galaxy.
This is a colorful galaxy with an incredible amount of details in its spiral arms. It has a bright yellow core and blue/red arms that gave it the nickname of "sunflower". It is located about 37 million light-years away from Earth.
The main challenge lies in processing this object. Make sure to be careful when playing with the curves or adjusting the saturation. The yellow colors in the core of M63 stop abruptly and becomes blue with hints of red as you go away from the center.
The Leo Triplet
The Leo Triplet is one of the most popular group of galaxies out there. It is made up of two Messier objects (M65 and M66) visible on the right side of the image below, as well as NGC 3628, known as the "Hamburger Galaxy" due to its shape.
The Leo Triplet is a fantastic target for beginner astrophotographers. All three galaxies are bright, easy to find, and most importantly impressively close! The image below was taken with a reflector telescope with 800mm of focal length, but you can also easily image these targets with a wider instrument.
The M96 Group
The M96 Group is a group of galaxies in the constellation Leo, it contains between 8 and 24 objects, most of them being spiral or elliptical galaxies. This target is a little difficult for beginner astrophotographers because of two things:
Framing is a little tricky, you will need to plan ahead and know exactly how you want to frame that area of the sky to include as many members as possible
The galaxies in the group are very different from each other and so you might have to play with masks during processing to bring out details in the spiral galaxies without ruining the softness of the ellipticals.
Despite that, the picture below was taken when we were pure beginners! We randomly pointed the telescope at M95 and, out of luck, the framing looked perfect to us! This was not a planned target for the night but we ended up imaging it anyway. As you can see by how dark the background is, we also weren't very skilled at PixInsight yet 😅
Messier 64 has many names, but the one that sticks the most is the Black Eye galaxy.
Located 17 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices, M64 is a spiral galaxy with a very bright core but very dark arms. From our point of view on Earth, the dark dust in the spiral arms looks like it is trying to hide the core.
This makes processing this object tricky because it is very easy to blow the core accidentally when trying to bring up details in the arms. Several HA regions can also be seen between the dark dust lanes.
M64 by NASA
And that's it!
We hope this list will help you pick a target to photograph tonight. If you do image one of these beautiful objects, make sure to show us your results in the comments section!
You can read our pick for the TOP 15 Spring Astrophotography Targets if you want to see more great objects for this season.
GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS
Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!
Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloguing photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby. This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes. Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.
Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations. Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder. Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories? This book groups the constellations in a logical order, so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group. The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease. The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing, and a learning journey through the ages.