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This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 21 – 29 – Sky & Telescope

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Betelgeuse stays dim. Orion’s Betelgeuse continues to be V magnitude +1.5 or +1.6 as of February 19th, a lot dimmer than its extra typical +zero.5. Nevertheless, it could now be exhibiting refined indicators of rebrightening (by zero.1 magnitude or much less) as measured photoelectrically. To the attention, Orion’s two shoulder stars nonetheless look principally equal. See Is Betelgeuse Approaching a Crossroads?

Mars, Jupiter, Saturn at dawn, Feb. 22, 2020

The three daybreak planets have gotten simpler for early risers to identify. Vibrant Jupiter is the primary that may catch your eye and the final that may fade away into the daylight. Use it to information you to Mars and Saturn.

Mars, Jupiter, Saturn at dawn, end of Feb. 2020

By week’s finish all three are just a little greater, and Mars is just a little nearer to Jupiter and Saturn. It should stroll the road between the 2 giants from March 20th to 31st.

Friday, Feb. 21

• Look excessive over Venus after darkish for the 2 brightest stars of Aries, lined up nearly vertically. And excessive above Aries, and maybe a bit left, are the Pleiades.

Venus is an effective 40° from the Pleiades proper now. However for the subsequent six weeks, watch as they head straight towards one another. On the night of April Third, Venus will shine simply contained in the cluster’s edge.

Saturday, Feb. 22

• Have you ever ever seen Canopus, the second-brightest star after Sirius? It lies 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 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 proper of Sirius — is at its highest due south over your
panorama. That is about 7 or eight p.m. now, relying on how far east or west you reside in your time zone. Look straight down from Murzim then.

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

Winter Hexagon

Shortly after dusk, the big Winter Hexagon extends from Sirius within the south-southeast to Capella nearly straight overhead.

Sunday, Feb. 23

• Stroll the celebrities of the Winter Hexagon, and search out a few of their deep-sky environment, with Gary Seronik’s Explore the Winter Hexagon Tonight.

• New Moon (actual at 10:32 a.m. EST).

Monday, Feb. 24

• Beneath the ft of Orion, and to the proper of Sirius in early night now, hides Lepus the Hare. Like Canis Main, this can be a constellation with a connect-the-dots that basically seems like what it is speculated to be. He is a crouching bunny, together with his nostril pointing decrease proper, his faint ears extending up towards Rigel (Orion’s western foot), and his physique bunched to the left. His brightest two stars, Third-magnitude Beta and Alpha Leporis, type the back and front of his neck.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

• In twilight, look far under Venus for the skinny crescent Moon. Suppose photograph alternative.

Moon passing Venus in twilight, Feb. 26-28, 2020

The waxing crescent Moon passes left of Venus within the western twilight. (For readability, the Moon right here is at all times drawn thrice its precise obvious measurement.)

Wednesday, Feb. 26

• The thickening crescent Moon is nearer underneath Venus this night, as proven right here.

Thursday, Feb. 27

• The crescent Moon is 6° or 7° left of Venus throughout and after twilight, as proven right here. How early can you notice them each? You can begin making an attempt lengthy earlier than sundown!

Friday, Feb. 28

• After dinnertime presently 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 ft (if any) to the proper. These are Ursa Main the Massive Bear within the northeast (with the Massive Dipper as 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.

Saturday, Feb. 29

• As the celebrities come out, look above the Moon to see how early you’ll be able to detect the Pleiades. They’re about 13° over the Moon: a fist at arm’s size or just a little extra.

Simpler to identify, and serving to to information you, can be orange Aldebaran the same distance to the Pleiades’ left.


Wish to develop into a greater astronomer? Be taught your method across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding every part fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

That is an out of doors nature pastime. For an easy-to-use constellation information overlaying the entire night sky, use the massive month-to-month map within the middle of every difficulty 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 lots of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Proven above is the Jumbo Edition for simpler studying within the night time. Sample 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 fundamental commonplace is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the original or Jumbo Edition), which exhibits stars to magnitude 7.6.

Subsequent up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude eight.5; almost thrice as many. The subsequent up, as soon as you already know your method round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) and Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And skim how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You will additionally need a good deep-sky guidebook, reminiscent of Sue French’s Deep-Sky Wonders assortment (which incorporates its personal charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Robust and Sinnott, or the larger Night Sky Observer’s Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope substitute charts? Not for novices, 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 Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, “A full appreciation of the universe can’t come with out growing the abilities to seek out issues within the sky and understanding how the sky works. This data comes solely by spending time underneath the celebrities with star maps in hand.”

This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury is hidden from sight within the skirts of the Solar.

Venus (magnitude –four.2, in Pisces) is the massive, brilliant “Night Star” shining within the west throughout and after twilight. Look to its proper or decrease proper as the celebrities come out for the Nice Sq. of Pegasus, sinking down on one nook. Venus does not set now till two hours or extra after the top of twilight.

In a telescope, Venus is 18 arcseconds in diameter and gibbous (65% sunlit). It should enlarge in measurement and wane in part for the remainder of the winter and far of the spring — passing via dichotomy (half-lit part) in late March earlier than changing into a dramatic skinny crescent in Could.

Mars by Damian Peach Jan 31, 2020

Mars was a minuscule four.eight arcseconds extensive on January 31st, however Damian Peach was capable of document plenty of floor options and clouds utilizing the 1-meter Chilescope in good seeing shortly earlier than dawn. South right here is up. The very darkish “peninsula” sticking down is Syrtis Main. South of it’s a giant cloudy zone over the Hellas basin. “Vibrant Elysium cloud [at lower left],” notes Peach. “Equatorial cloud band throughout Syrtis Main.”

Mars (magnitude +1.2, above the Sagittarius Teapot) glows within the southeast earlier than and through early daybreak. Do not confuse it with Antares, shining with the identical coloration and brightness some 25° to Mars’s higher proper. Mars continues to be a tiny 5 arcseconds in diameter. But it surely’s on its solution to a tremendous opposition in October, when it develop to 22.6 arcseconds extensive.

Mars (magnitude 1.2, above the Sagittarius Teapot) glows within the southeast earlier than and through daybreak. It is higher proper of brilliant Jupiter. Evaluate Mars to Antares, related in coloration and brightness, which is way over to its higher proper within the south.

Jupiter (magnitude –1.9, in Sagittarius) shines a lot brighter (and whiter) decrease left of Mars left. They’re closing in on one another; Mars is 14° from Jupiter on the morning of February 22nd and 11° from it on the 29th.

Saturn (magnitude +zero.6, additionally in Sagittarius) is low in early daybreak, 9° decrease left of Jupiter, nearly a fist at arm’s size. Binoculars will assist because the sky brightens.

Uranus (magnitude 5.eight, in southwestern Aries) is excessive within the west-southwest proper after the top of twilight, hiding at the hours of darkness some 10° or 15° above Venus. Finder chart (with out Venus).

Neptune is misplaced within the 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 depend upon longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Jap Customary Time (EST) is Common Time (UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 5 hours.

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.

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