March: Leo on show and Lions fundraiser

One of most recognisable sights in the night sky, the aptly named Horsehead Nebula – also known as Barnard 33 ­­–­ is a small dark nebula in the constellation Orion about 1375 light-years from Earth. It’s located just to the south of Alnitak, the easternmost star of Orion’s Belt, and is part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. To its left is the Flame Nebula, designated NGC 2024 and Sh2-277. An emission nebula in Orion, it is 900-1500 light-years away. Photo: MPAS member Guido Tack

The constellation Orion is gradually sinking out of view, so make the most of it before it disappears. Leo is very much still on show and can be found sitting high in the northern part of the sky. Not far away from Leo, a little lower in the northwest, are the brightest stars of the constellation Gemini, Castor and Pollux.

See if you can find the False Cross which is formed by four stars in the constellations Carina and Vela. The False Cross asterism resembles the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross, but is somewhat larger. The constellation Vela, the Sails, was once part of a larger constellation called Argo Navis, the Ship. Vela can be found near the other parts of the ship, notably the constellations Carina, the Keel, and Puppis, the Stern.

With a good pair of binoculars, you can view the open cluster known as the Southern Pleiades (IC 2602). Just north of the Southern Pleiades is the glowing region NGC 3372 that’s visible to the unaided eye. Also known as the Carina Nebula, it is beautiful when observed through a small telescope.

This month we will see a few conjunctions, starting with Venus and Mars on March 13. Then on March 28 is a conjunction of the moon, Venus, Mars and Saturn, followed by a conjunction of Venus and Saturn on March 30.

The Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society is holding a Musical Stargazing Night on Saturday, March 26. The event is a fundraiser for the Cranbourne Lions Concert Band and MPAS, so all attendees over the age of 16 will need tickets. Buy yours via our website at There is a telescope door prize to win, a raffle, an astronomy talk about humans in space, and answers to questions you probably never considered, as well as a trivia contest including music, astronomy and general knowledge questions. It’s at the Mount Martha Observatory at The Briars. Tickets are limited and bookings are necessary, so don’t miss out.

By Nerida Langcake
This article appeared in the March 2022 issue of the Mornington Peninsula Magazine.