Stargazing on a March evening offered a rare window into the vastness of the Universe of which we are a part. Without even leaving the backyard, or even the deck, before me lay grand vistas of stars and distant galaxies much like our own.
This canopy unfolds every night, but is all too often shielded by clouds and even more frustratingly, the menace of light pollution.
Nevertheless, on occasion weather conditions are at their peak and without a Moon in the sky, a seemingly incalculable number of celestial lights decorate the darkness above. This was an early Spring evening.  Constellations dominating Winter were still there, slipping into the southwest and west. Spring’s showpieces were taking over, from fiery orange Arcturus glowing low in the east to blue-white Regulus standing like a beacon in Leo the Lion constellation. 
Many stars are clumped together like celestial cities and towns. One can liken the view to the landscape seen from an airliner at night, looking down at the array of manmade lights. Unlike the neat rows of streets however, star clusters show no definite patterns.  Three of these clusters stand out to the unaided eye, and may be viewed on a Spring night in the time it takes to turn your head.
If you look to the west, you can still see the glittering Pleiades Star Cluster, the easiest of the three to notice without binoculars. The Pleiades are part of the constellation Taurus the Bull, more prominent on Winter nights.
The Pleiades are around 440 light years away. Glance about half way up in the south for the Beehive Star Cluster, part of the faint constellation Cancer the Crab. The Beehive is about 520 to 610 light years away.  Continue turning your head to the east; about half way up is the dim but large star cluster, Coma Berenices, part of a faint constellation by the same name. This cluster is about 288 light years distant. Binoculars will help a great deal in seeing the Beehive and Coma Berenices, and may be required if light pollution tries to steal the show.
You may as well keep turning.
Look north for the marvelous Big Dipper, which appears to leaping up high in the northeast, its “bowl” upside down followed by the “handle.” Most of the stars of the Big Dipper are believed to part of a loose association, a lesser degree of what is considered a star cluster. As with other clusters, these stars are attracted by each other’s gravitation and travel space together.
Well beyond the starry realm you see with eyes alone are multitudes of distant galaxies. Mammoth clusters of galaxies spread across great swathes of the Spring sky.  A small telescope can reveal the brightest of these galaxies, appearing in most cases in your eyepiece little more than a dim piece of fuzz. Long exposure photographs and large telescopes show their true nature, which often are grand spirals of stars and nebulae, much like the Milky Way. In each of these are a fantastic number of skies, as seen from probable planets orbiting their billions of stars.
Each possible sky has its own pattern of stars, where if there are anyone living on these worlds, they could conceivably create their own imaginative constellations. Visible from each of these cosmic perspectives are an untold number of star clusters, and somewhere deep in the blackness, another faint fuzzy spot, the Milky Way Galaxy.
Last quarter Moon is on March 20.
Keep looking up!
— Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.