This week Jupiter and Venus transfer ever farther aside within the daybreak, however dim Saturn cozies up with Venus.
Friday, February 15
• The waxing gibbous Moon shines within the toes of Gemini this night. Castor and Pollux are to its left, Procyon is to its decrease left, and Orion is to its decrease proper.
Saturday, February 16
• Proper after darkish, the Moon finds itself between Procyon to its decrease left and Pollux and Castor nearer to its higher proper. By 9 or 10 p.m. they’re all greater within the south, and the association has turned vertical.
Sunday, February 17
• Have you ever ever seen Canopus, the second-brightest star after Sirius? It is nearly due south of Sirius: by 36°. That is far sufficient south that it by no means seems above your horizon until you are under latitude 37° N (southern Virginia, southern Missouri, central California). And there, you may want a really flat south horizon. Canopus passes over the south level in your horizon simply 21 minutes earlier than Sirius does.
When to look? Canopus is due south when Beta Canis Majoris — Mirzam the Announcer, the star about three finger-widths to the proper of Sirius — is at its highest due south (roughly eight:00 p.m. now, relying on how far east or west you might be in your time zone). Look straight down from Mirzam then.
Monday, February 18
• Proper after darkish, brilliant Capella is close to the zenith. Face northwest and look 20° (two fists) that manner from Capella. The brightest star there may be Alpha Persei, Mirfak. Round and higher left of it’s the Perseus OB1 Affiliation, a unfastened swarm of modestly brilliant stars in regards to the measurement of your thumbtip at arm’s size. They present properly in binoculars.
• A momentary, partial asteroid occultation of Sirius ought to occur late tonight for well-placed observers alongside a really slim path operating from northwestern Mexico by the Dakotas and previous Winnipeg. See Bob King’s Will Sirius Disappear on February 18th?
The total Moon of February shines in Leo.
Tuesday, February 19
• Full Moon (precise at 10:54 a.m.). Tonight the Moon shines in Leo. After darkish search for Regulus to its higher proper and pale orange Algieba (Gamma Leonis), a little bit fainter, above the moon or to its higher left, as proven right here.
Wednesday, February 20
• After dinnertime right now of 12 months, 5 carnivore constellations rise upright in a row from the northeast to south. They’re all seen in profile with their noses pointed up and their toes (if any) to the proper. These are Ursa Main the Massive Bear within the northeast (with the Massive Dipper its brightest half), Leo the Lion within the east, Hydra the Sea Serpent within the southeast, Canis Minor the Little Canine greater within the south-southeast, and brilliant Canis Main the Massive Canine within the south.
Thursday, February 21
• After darkish the Massive Dipper stands on its deal with within the northeast. Within the northwest, Cassiopeia additionally stands on finish, at about the identical peak.
• Sirius shines highest within the south in mid-evening now. Its faint white-dwarf companion, the primary super-dense object found within the universe, is a notoriously tough telescopic sighting. However for practically a decade to return, Sirius B seems about as removed from Sirius A because it ever does. And when Sirius is highest is the time to strive. For tips about detecting it see Bob King’s Sirius B — A New Pup in My Life.
And for extra about this and different telescopic targets in Canis Main, flip to Sue French’s Deep-Sky Wonders column within the February Sky & Telescope, web page 54.
Within the daybreak sky, Saturn is now pulling away from Venus.
Friday, February 22
• Winter nonetheless has a month to go, however a preview of spring stars awaits for those who step exterior after about 11 p.m. By then the waning gibbous Moon might be up within the east. Search for Spica to its decrease proper by about 7° (lower than a fist at arm’s size). 4 occasions farther to the Moon’s higher left shines brighter Arcturus, pale yellow-orange.
Saturday, February 23
• A neater Sirius sight: Utilizing binoculars, study the spot four° south of Sirius (immediately under it round eight or 9 p.m. now). 4 levels is considerably lower than the width of a typical binocular’s discipline of view. Are you able to see a little bit patch of speckly grey haze? That is the open star cluster M41, about 2,200 light-years away. Sirius, by comparability, is barely eight.6 light-years away.
• These moonless evenings of late winter are a super time to search for the zodiacal gentle for those who reside within the mid-northern latitudes. Why? That is the time of 12 months when the ecliptic tilts most steeply upward from the western horizon at dusk.
From a transparent, clear, darkish location, look west on the very finish of twilight for a imprecise however enormous, tall pyramid of pearly gentle. It is tilted to the left, aligning alongside the constellations of the zodiac.
What you are seeing is sunlit interplanetary mud orbiting the Solar close to the ecliptic aircraft. Imagine it or not, seen from interstellar distances this could be the photo voltaic system’s most distinguished characteristic after the Solar itself; it is very massive, making up for its dim floor brightness.
Wish to turn out to be a greater astronomer? Study your manner across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding every thing fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
That is an outside nature interest. For an easy-to-use constellation information overlaying the entire night sky, use the large month-to-month map within the middle of every problem of Sky & Telescope, the important information to astronomy.
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and lots of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Proven above is the Jumbo Version for simpler studying within the night time. Pattern chart.
When you get a telescope, to place it to good use you may want an in depth, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The essential commonplace is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the unique or Jumbo Version), which reveals stars to magnitude 7.6.
Subsequent up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.zero, plotting stars to magnitude eight.5; practically thrice as many. The following up, as soon as you understand your manner round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) and Uranometria 2000.zero (stars to magnitude 9.75). And browse how one can use sky charts with a telescope.
You will additionally desire a good deep-sky guidebook, resembling Sue French’s Deep-Sky Wonders assortment (which incorporates its personal charts), Sky Atlas 2000.zero Companion by Sturdy and Sinnott, or the larger Evening Sky Observer’s Information by Kepple and Sanner.
Can a computerized telescope substitute charts? Not for freshmen, I do not assume, and never on mounts and tripods which can be lower than top-quality mechanically (that means heavy and costly). And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say of their Yard Astronomer’s Information, “A full appreciation of the universe can’t come with out creating the talents to search out issues within the sky and understanding how the sky works. This information comes solely by spending time beneath the celebrities with star maps in hand.”
This Week’s Planet Roundup
By the top of this week, Mercury has turn out to be a reasonably simple catch as twilight fades.
Jupiter’s Nice Pink Spot stays strongly coloured coming into this 12 months’s observing season, as seen on this February 2nd picture taken remotely by Damian Peach with the 1-meter Chilescope. South is up. The Pink Spot Hole at the moment has very darkish “eyeliner.” The Equatorial Zone, normally white, has largely turned pale orange-tan.
Mercury (about magnitude –1.zero) is rising into view low within the afterglow of sundown. It turns into a little bit greater and simpler to identify each night. About 30 to 45 minutes after sundown, search for it glimmering low a little bit south of due west, as proven right here.
Venus (magnitude –four.2), Jupiter (magnitude –1.9) and Saturn (magnitude +zero.6) all rise earlier than the start of daybreak. As daybreak will get beneath manner, Jupiter and Venus dominate the low southeast. Jupiter is the one on the higher proper. Each morning they’re a little bit farther aside. In the meantime Saturn, a lot dimmer, passes shut by Venus this week. They seem closest, 1.1° aside, on the morning of Monday the 18th.
And to the proper of Jupiter search for twinkly orange Antares. They’re 12° aside.
In a telescope Venus is dazzling white and gibbous. Jupiter seems twice as massive in obvious diameter, however its floor brightness is a few 50 occasions dimmer — due largely to Jupiter’s 7-times-greater distance from the illuminating Solar.
Mars (magnitude +1.1, in Aries) nonetheless glows excessive within the west-southwest at dusk and units round 11 p.m. In a telescope it is a tiny blob hardly 6 arcseconds large.
Uranus (seen in binoculars at magnitude 5.eight, on the Aries-Pisces border) is a couple of levels under Mars. Finder chart (with out Mars).
Neptune is misplaced within the afterglow of sundown.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — together with the phrases up, down, proper, and left — are written for the world’s mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that additionally rely on longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.
Jap Normal Time (EST) is Common Time (UT or GMT) minus 5 hours.
Audio sky tour. Out beneath the night sky along with your earbuds in place, take heed to Kelly Beatty’s month-to-month podcast tour of the heavens above. It is free.
“Science is constructed up of details, as a home is with stones. However a set of details is not any extra a science than a heap of stones is a home.”
— Henri Poincaré (1854–1912)