This Week’s Sky at a Look, February 22 – March 2

February 22, 2019 - Comment

  Within the daybreak sky, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are all pulling away from one another. Friday, February 22 • Winter nonetheless has a month to go, however a preview of spring stars awaits you when you step outdoors after about 11 p.m. By then tonight, the waning gibbous Moon could have risen within the


Venus and Saturn at dawn, Feb. 23, 2019

Within the daybreak sky, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are all pulling away from one another.

Friday, February 22

• Winter nonetheless has a month to go, however a preview of spring stars awaits you when you step outdoors after about 11 p.m. By then tonight, the waning gibbous Moon could have risen within the east. Search for Spica to its decrease proper by about 7° (lower than a fist at arm’s size). 4 instances farther to the Moon’s higher left shines brighter Arcturus, pale yellow-orange. Each are iconic stars of heat spring evenings.

Saturday, February 23

Sirius and M41. Sirius is the brightest star within the south these evenings, glowing pure white. Use binoculars to look at the spot four° south of Sirius (immediately beneath it round eight or 9 p.m. now). 4 levels is considerably lower than the width of a typical binocular’s area of view. Are you able to see just a little patch of speckly grey haze? That is the open star cluster M41, about 2,200 light-years away. Sirius, by comparability, is simply eight.6 light-years distant.

• These moonless evenings of late winter are a effective time to search for the zodiacal mild when you dwell within the mid-northern latitudes. Why? That is the time of yr when the ecliptic tilts most steeply upward from the western horizon at dusk.

From a transparent, clear, darkish location, look west on the finish of twilight for a obscure however enormous, tall pyramid of pearly mild. 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 airplane. Consider it or not, seen from interstellar distances this is able to be the photo voltaic system’s most seen function after the Solar itself. The zodiacal mild could be very huge, making up for its dim floor brightness.

Sunday, February 24

• Have you ever ever seen Canopus, the second-brightest star after Sirius? It is virtually due south of Sirius: by 36°. That is far sufficient south that it by no means seems above your horizon except you are beneath latitude 37° N (southern Virginia, southern Missouri, central California). And there, you will 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 — Murzim the Announcer, the star about three finger-widths to the correct of Sirius — is at its highest due south over your panorama. That is about eight p.m. now, relying on how far east or west you’re in your time zone. Look straight down from Murzim then.

Monday, February 25

• Proper after darkish, vibrant Capella shines close to the zenith. Face west-northwest and look 20° (two fists) down towards that path from Capella. The brightest star there may be Alpha Persei, Mirfak. Round and higher left of it’s the Perseus OB1 Affiliation, a free swarm of modestly vibrant stars concerning the dimension of your thumbtip at arm’s size. They present properly in binoculars.

• Going deeper? Sure deep-sky objects maintain secret surprises inside or close to them. Get out your telescope and sky atlas for a go at Bob King’s eight Hidden Gems in Frequent Deep-Sky Objects now in night view.

Moon, Jupiter, Antares at dawn, Feb. 26-27, 2019

The waning Moon within the daybreak passes over Scorpius and skims by Jupiter . . .

Moon, Saturn, Venus, March 1-3, 2019

. . . after which the Moon steps previous Saturn and Venus as its crescent thins.

• Final-quarter Moon (precise at 6:28 a.m. on the 26th EST). The Moon rises round 1 a.m. tonight. By early daybreak on the 26th, spot Jupiter greater than 10° to the Moon’s decrease left, and fainter Antares nearer beneath the Moon, as proven right here.

Tuesday, February 26

• Algol is at its minimal mild, magnitude three.four as a substitute of its ordinary 2.1, for about two hours centered on 10:30 p.m. EST.

Often Algol is a detailed match for Almach (Gamma Andromedae) now 12° beneath or decrease proper of it. However when Algol is deep in eclipse it is clearly fainter.

• Tonight the waning Moon rises round 2 a.m. in shut firm with Jupiter. By daybreak Wednesday the 27th they shine within the south-southeast, as proven right here.

Wednesday, February 27

• After darkish presently of yr, 5 carnivore constellations come out of hibernation in a row from the northeast to south. They’re all seen in profile with their noses pointing up and their ft (if any) to the correct. These are Ursa Main the Huge Bear within the northeast (with the Huge Dipper its brightest half), Leo the Lion within the east, Hydra the Sea Serpent within the southeast, Canis Minor the Little Canine larger within the south-southeast, and vibrant Canis Main the Huge Canine within the south.

Thursday, February 28

• As February turns to March, Sirius shines highest within the south in early night. Its faint white-dwarf companion star, the primary super-dense object ever found, is a notoriously tough telescopic sighting for amateurs. However for almost a decade to return, Sirius B seems about as removed from Sirius A because it ever does. And the time to attempt is when Sirius is highest! For recommendations on detecting it (11 arcseconds east-northeast of Sirius A), 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.

• The crescent Moon in Friday’s early daybreak affords you Saturn a couple of levels to its left, as proven above (for North America).

Friday, March 1

• That is the time of yr when Orion stands straight upright due south as the celebs come out. Later within the night, and later within the month, he begins his lengthy tilt down towards the west.

• Algol is at its minimal mild, magnitude three.four as a substitute of its ordinary 2.1, for about two hours centered on 7:19 p.m. EST. Everytime you look up at Algol at a random time, you will have solely a 1 in 30 probability of catching it not less than a magnitude fainter than regular.

• Now in Saturday’s daybreak, the low crescent Moon introduces Venus to its left, the “star” of the morning present.

Saturday, March 2

• Look east after nightfall this week for the constellation Leo already climbing properly up the sky. Its brightest star is Regulus, and the Sickle of Leo extends higher left from there.


Need to turn into a greater astronomer? Be taught your method across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding all the things fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

That is an out of doors nature passion. For an easy-to-use constellation information masking the entire night sky, use the massive month-to-month map within the middle of every problem of Sky & Telescope, the important information to astronomy.

Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas cover

The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and a whole lot 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 will want an in depth, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The essential customary 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, plotting stars to magnitude eight.5; almost 3 times as many. The subsequent up, as soon as your method round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) and Uranometria (stars to magnitude 9.75). And browse the right way to use sky charts with a telescope.

You may additionally desire a good deep-sky guidebook, comparable to Sue French’s Deep-Sky Wonders assortment (which incorporates its personal charts), Sky Atlas Companion by Sturdy and Sinnott, or the larger Evening Sky Observer’s Information by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope change charts? Not for rookies, I do not suppose, and never on mounts and tripods which are 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 growing the abilities to search out issues within the sky and understanding how the sky works. This information comes solely by spending time below the celebs with star maps in hand.”

Jupiter with Red Spot Feb. 11, 2019

Jupiter’s Nice Purple Spot stays strongly orange this season, as seen on this February 11th picture by Christopher Go. South is up. The Purple Spot Hole has darkish “eyeliner.” The Equatorial Zone, often white, has principally turned pale orange-tan. The North Equatorial Belt is darkish reddish.

Mercury is having a pleasant night apparition. Search for it low within the west as twilight fades. However Mercury dwindles in brightness by about half this week, from magnitude –zero.eight to Nonetheless, there’s nothing in that a part of the sky that is almost as vibrant to confuse it with (besides airplanes!)

Venus (magnitude –four.1), Jupiter (magnitude –, and Saturn (magnitude +zero.6) all rise properly earlier than daybreak begins. As daybreak will get below method Venus shines within the low southeast, and Jupiter is the brilliant dot three or 4 fists at arm’s size to its higher proper. Search for Saturn, a lot fainter, about sixth to a 3rd of the best way from Venus to Jupiter. The road is lengthening; all three planets transfer just a little farther away from one another every morning.

To Jupiter’s proper search for fainter, orange Antares. They’re 13° 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 instances dimmer.

That is principally because of Jupiter’s 7-times-greater distance from the illuminating Solar. It’s possible you’ll be stunned to be taught that each Venus and Jupiter have equally vibrant albedos (reflectivity). Jupiter’s cloudtops mirror a mean 52% of the daylight that hits them, whereas the clouds of Venus mirror 65%. Footage of Jupiter are hardly ever displayed in a method that reveals this similarity; imagers (and web sites and magazines) often choose to extend the darkness and distinction of Jupiter to emphasise particulars in its clouds.

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 greater than 5 arcseconds vast. Be affected person. Not till October 2020 will Mars come to opposition and swing (comparatively) shut by Earth once more.

Uranus (seen in binoculars at magnitude 5.eight, on the Aries-Pisces border) hides beneath Mars. Finder chart (with out Mars). Look simply after darkish whereas Uranus remains to be pretty excessive.

Neptune is misplaced within the sundown.

Damian Peach made this full-rotation composite of Jupiter from pictures he took final Might across the time of Jupiter’s opposition, utilizing a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on Barbados. In software program, he mapped the pictures onto a digital globe with Jupiter’s barely ellipsoidal form.


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 depend upon longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Jap Commonplace Time (EST) is Common Time (UT or GMT) minus 5 hours.


Audio sky tour. Out below the night sky together with your earbuds in place, hearken 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)



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