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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 19 – 27 – Sky & Telescope

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■ First-quarter Moon (precisely so at 1:47 p.m. EST). The Moon shines between Aldebaran and the Pleiades excessive this night, as proven under. Each February, the first-quarter Moon is of their neighborhood.

The Moon, waxing via first quarter, passes the similar-looking duo of Mars and Aldebaran excessive within the night. However in fact they don’t seem to be related in any respect. Mars is a chilly, dusty, rusty ball of rock at the moment 10 light-minutes away. Aldebaran is a blinding fireball 9,000 occasions bigger in diameter than Mars and 67 light-years away. If Mars have been a 1-millimeter mustard seed 100 toes out of your eye (we’re being true to scale right here), Aldebaran could be a blinding, house-sized fireball 170 miles behind it.

Nowhere in human expertise however astronomy are issues so completely different than they appear.


■ Now spot Aldebaran under the Moon, as proven above.

After dinnertime right now of 12 months, 5 carnivore constellations are rising 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 best. These are Ursa Main the Huge Bear within the northeast (with the Huge Dipper as its brightest half), Leo the Lion within the east, Hydra the Sea Serpent within the southeast, Canis Minor the Little Canine increased within the south-southeast, and brilliant Canis Main the Huge Canine within the south.


The Moon in early night shines between Orion under it and Auriga above it on the zenith, and between Taurus to its proper and Gemini to its left. The truth is, the Moon shines near the assembly locations of the official borders of these 4 constellations (throughout night for North America).


■ Have you ever ever seen Canopus, the second-brightest star after Sirius? In one of many fascinating coincidences recognized to devoted skywatchers, Canopus lies nearly due south of Sirius: by 36°. That is far sufficient south that it by no means seems above your horizon except you are under latitude 37° N (southern Virginia, southern Missouri, central California). And there, you will want a really flat south horizon. Canopus crosses the south level on the 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 best of Sirius — is at its highest due south over your panorama. That is in all probability someday between eight and 9 p.m. now, relying on how far east or west you reside in your time zone. Look straight down from Murzim then.


■ The waxing gibbous Moon this night shines under Pollux and Castor. Brighter Procyon is farther under.

Lunar occultation. Early this night the Moon’s darkish limb will occult Kappa Geminorum, magnitude three.6, for observers from central Delaware, Maryland, and Tennessee southward. Some occasions: Washington DC, 7:32 p.m. EST; Atlanta, 6:56 p.m. EST; Jacksonville, 7:06 p.m. EST; Miami, 6:43 p.m. EST. Map and timetables.

■ Sirius the Canine Star blazes excessive within the southeast after dinnertime, the brightest star of Canis Main. Spot it decrease left of Orion. In a moonless and unpolluted sky, the celebs of Canis Main may be related to kind a convincing canine profile. However underneath a brighter sky like tonight’s, solely his 5 brightest stars present nicely. These kind the short-handled Meat Cleaver. Sirius is the cleaver’s high again nook, its blade faces proper, and its stubby deal with is right down to the decrease left.


■ The Moon this night is in the midst of dim Most cancers. Shortly after darkish, you will discover Pollux and Castor above it, Regulus under it, and Procyon to its proper. Because the night time advances, this panorama seems to rotates clockwise across the Moon.


■ The just about-full Moon shines in Leo, with Regulus about 9° to its decrease proper and Algieba about 9° to its decrease left (for night in North America). Binoculars will enable you decide them out via the moonlight. A typical binocular’s discipline of view is about 6° vast.


■ Full Moon tonight (precise at three:17 a.m. Saturday morning EST). The Moon is underneath the stomach of Leo. This night via the moonlight, Regulus is 7° to the Moon’s higher proper and Algieba is 7° above the Moon (once more for North America.) Carry the binoculars. A typical binocular’s view is about 6° vast.


■ Denebola, Leo’s 2nd-magnitude tail tip, shines some 7° left of the rising moon after darkish.


This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn lurk very low in brilliant daybreak, however Jupiter and Saturn are getting just a little increased and more easy to see daily, and Mercury brightens whereas sustaining its place. Look very low within the east-southeast 20 or 30 minutes earlier than dawn. With the sky that brilliant, carry binoculars. See illustration under.

Mercury practically doubles in brightness from magnitude +zero.9 to +zero.three this week. Saturn is magnitude +zero.7, whereas Jupiter, although decrease, is far brighter at magazine –2.zero.

Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter progressively sneak onstage earlier than dawn. Their visibility in brilliant twilight is exaggerated right here!

Venus is out of sight within the glare of the Solar.

Mars (magnitude +zero.eight, underneath the Pleiades) continues to fade within the night sky because it strikes from Aries into Taurus. Search for it excessive within the west-southwest proper after darkish.

Left of Mars shines Aldebaran, basically the dual of Mars now in brightness in addition to shade. The hole between them shrinks this week from 18° to 15°. They will go 7° aside in mid-March. (And by the way in which, Mars and March do have the identical root. The month identify comes from the Roman Martius, “the month of Mars.”)

In a telescope Mars is a mere 6½ arcseconds vast.

Uranus (magnitude 5.eight, in western Aries) is roughly 20° under Mars in early night. In binoculars Uranus is just a little pinpoint “star.” However with an obvious diameter of three.5 arcseconds, it is a tiny, fuzzy ball at excessive energy in even a reasonably smallish telescope with sharp optics — throughout spells of fine seeing. Finder chart.

Neptune is misplaced within the western night twilight.

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

Jap Commonplace Time, EST, is Common Time minus 5 hours. (Common Time is also referred to as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time. For the soiled particulars see Time and the Amateur Astronomer.)

Wish to develop into a greater astronomer? Study your means across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding all the pieces 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 overlaying the entire night sky, use the large month-to-month map within the heart of every concern of Sky & Telescope, the important journal of astronomy.

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 normal is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the original or Jumbo Edition), which reveals stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and a whole bunch of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Proven right here is the Jumbo Version, which is in arduous covers and enlarged for simpler studying outside by purple flashlight. Sample charts. More about the current editions.

Subsequent up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude eight.5; practically 3 times as many. The subsequent up, as soon as you recognize your means round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And remember to learn how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You may additionally desire a good deep-sky guidebook, comparable to Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Sturdy and Sinnott, or the larger (and illustrated) Night Sky Observer’s Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope change charts? Not for newbies, I do not suppose, and never on mounts and tripods which might be lower than top-quality mechanically, that means heavy and costly. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say of their Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, “A full appreciation of the universe can not 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 underneath the celebs with star maps in hand.”

Audio sky tour. Out underneath 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.

“The risks of not considering clearly are a lot better now than ever earlier than. It isn’t that there is one thing new in our mind-set, it is that credulous and confused considering may be way more deadly in methods it was by no means earlier than.”
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

“Information are cussed issues.”
            — John Adams, 1770


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