I’ll admit it: March is one of my favorite months. I love March Madness, even if I never win any pool because I always pick the wrong upsets. I enjoy the competition, the great story lines, and an excuse to watch college basketball all day. And after the first round, I tend to root for the Cinderella just to see an underdog win it all.
But March isn’t just about college basketball. It’s also a big month for amateur astronomy — the month for Messier marathons. Messier’s 109 deep-sky objects get special attention during this time, as various observers try to target them all in one night.
Because both of these March events cause a lot of talk in the Astronomy office, I thought this year I should combine them. So welcome to Messier Madness, a tournament pitting one Messier object against another in head-to-head matchups to establish a celestial champion.
Our “selection committee” picked the top 16 seeds, and now it’s up to you determine the overall winner. Starting today, we’ll play two “games” every weekday until we reach the championship Monday, April 8 (the same day the NCAA crowns its tournament champion).
Facebook will be our court. You can vote on Astronomy’s Facebook page for your favorite in each matchup, starting with today’s games, No. 1 seed the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) vs. No. 4 Bode’s Galaxy (M81) and No. 2 the Pleiades (M45) vs. No. 3 the Dumbbell Nebula (M27). Each matchup will be posted at either noon CDT or 4 p.m. CDT as a simple poll, and voting will be counted for 24 hours.
To complete the round of 16, the schedule is as follows:
The round of eight games will occur April 3–4, the final four April 5, and the championship April 8. May the best Messier object win.
And, yes, even in this, I’m still cheering for a Cinderella story.