Home / Space force / This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 26 – March 6 – Sky & Telescope

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 26 – March 6 – Sky & Telescope

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■ Full Moon tonight (precisely so at three:17 a.m. Saturday morning EST). It is beneath the stomach of Leo. This night by way of the moonlight, search for Regulus, Alpha Leonis, 7° to the Moon’s higher proper. Then discover Algieba, Gamma Leonis, a bit fainter, 7° above the Moon (for North America.) Convey binoculars to chop by way of the glare – and possibly to measure your approach. A typical binocular’s area of view is about 6° broad.


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


It is the top of February. So quickly after darkish now, the Huge Dipper rises as excessive within the northeast as Cassiopeia has descended to within the northwest. Halfway between them, as all the time, is Polaris.


■ It is not spring for one more 19 days, however the Spring Star Arcturus appears desirous to thrust itself into view. It rises above the east-northeast horizon about an hour after darkish now, relying in your latitude. By late night Arcturus dominates the jap sky.

To see the place to observe for this, discover the Huge Dipper as quickly as the celebrities come out; it is excessive within the northeast. Observe the curve of its deal with down and round to the decrease proper by a little bit greater than a Dipper-length. That is the spot on the horizon to observe.

■ Algol ought to dip to its minimal brightness, magnitude three.four as an alternative of its standard 2.1, for a pair hours centered on 11:21 p.m. EST (Eight:21 p.m. PST).

■ Will you be out earlier than daybreak Tuesday morning? The waning gibbous Moon will probably be shining within the southwest, providing telescopic views of a section you are in all probability not used to. And spot Spica about 5° beneath it (for North America).


■ Sirius blazes excessive within the south on the meridian by about Eight p.m. now. Utilizing binoculars, look at the spot four° south of Sirius (instantly beneath it when it is on the meridian). 4 levels is considerably lower than the width of a typical binocular’s area of view. Are you able to see a little bit patch of grey haze right here? That is the open star cluster M41, about 2,200 light-years away. Its complete magnitude provides as much as 5.zero.

Sirius, by comparability, is barely Eight.6 light-years away and shines 400 instances brighter.


■ After dinnertime presently of yr, 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 appropriate. 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 greater within the south-southeast, and shiny Canis Main the Huge Canine within the south.


■ Mars is about three° left of the Pleiades this night by way of Saturday night. Its background stars slide down a little bit farther to the decrease proper every day, as seen beneath.

Mars passing the Pleiades. It’s going to cross the road from the Pleiades to Aldebaran on March eighth. (The 10° scale is concerning the measurement of your fist at arm’s size.)

■ Algol shines at minimal mild for about two hours centered on Eight:10 p.m. EST Thursday night time.

Jupiter and Mercury are in conjunction very low within the daybreak Friday morning, as proven within the second illustration of This Week’s Planet Roundup beneath. Look very low within the east-southeast a couple of half hour earlier than dawn. Convey binoculars to raised see by way of the brilliant sky. They’re going to be zero.6° aside for North America. Look fastidiously; Mercury is barely an eighth as shiny as Jupiter.

Additionally at daybreak on the fifth: The last-quarter Moon shines within the south with Antares 5° beneath it.


■ February was Orion’s month to face at his at his highest within the south in early night. Now March pushes him a little bit westward and brings his canine, Canis Main with Sirius, into that exalted meridian-transiting standing.

In a moonless darkish sky, the celebrities of Canis Main may be linked to type a pleasant canine profile, however in a brighter sky solely his 5 brightest stars present nicely. These type the unmistakable Meat Cleaver. Sirius and Murzim (to its proper) are the Cleaver’s broad high finish, with Sirius glowing on its high again nook. All the way down to Sirius’s decrease left is the Cleaver’s different finish, together with its quick deal with, shaped by the triangle of Adhara, Wezen, and Aludra. The Cleaver is chopping towards the decrease proper.

■ Need to strive for Sirius B, the well-known white-dwarf companion? Sirius A and B are actually on the obvious widest of their 50-year orbit, 11 arcseconds aside, and can stay so for the subsequent a number of years earlier than they begin closing up once more. You may need a minimum of an Eight-inch scope, an evening of actually wonderful seeing (preserve checking night time after night time), Sirius at its very highest like it’s now, and the Sirius-B-hunting suggestions in Bob King’s article Sirius B – A New Pup in My Life.

The Pup is east-northeast of the Canine Star and 10 magnitudes fainter: one ten-thousandth as shiny. As Bob recommends, put a do-it-yourself occulting bar throughout your eyepiece’s area cease: a tiny strip of aluminum foil held with a little bit of tape. Cover blinding Sirius A simply behind the strip’s jap edge.


■ With the Moon gone from the night sky, it is a nice week to search for the zodiacal light should you stay within the mid-northern latitudes. Presently of yr the ecliptic tilts excessive upward from the western horizon at dusk. From a transparent, clear, darkish website, look west on the very finish of twilight for a obscure however big, 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.

■ Additionally for moonless nights: 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 Common Deep-Sky Objects now in night view.


This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn lurk very low in shiny daybreak. However Jupiter and Saturn are getting a little bit greater and easier to see every morning, whereas Mercury maintains its altitude and fades barely this week. Look very low within the east-southeast about 30 minutes earlier than dawn, as proven beneath. With the sky that shiny, carry binoculars.

Mercury fades from magnitude +zero.2 to +zero.6 this week. Saturn is magnitude +zero.7, whereas Jupiter, although decrease, is far brighter at magazine –2.zero.

Watch Jupiter shut in on Mercury day-to-day. They attain conjunction, about zero.6° aside for North America, on the morning of March fifth.

Day-to-day, watch Jupiter shut in on Mercury till they cross one another on March fifth.

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

Mars (magnitude +zero.9, in Taurus) passes the Pleiades this week. Look excessive within the west in early night.

Higher left of Mars shines Aldebaran, primarily the dual of Mars in brightness now in addition to colour. Their separation shrinks from 15° to 12° this week. (They’re going to be passing 7° aside on the flip of spring on March 20th. And by the way in which, Mars and March have the identical root. Our month title comes from the Roman Martius, “month of Mars.”)

In a telescope Mars is a mere 6 arcseconds broad: a tiny shiny blob.

Uranus (magnitude 5.Eight, in western Aries) is much beneath Mars in early night. 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 Normal Time, EST, is Common Time minus 5 hours. (Common Time is also referred to as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time. For the down-and-dirty particulars see Time and the Amateur Astronomer.)

Need to change into a greater astronomer? Study your approach 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 outside nature passion. For an easy-to-use constellation information protecting the entire night sky, use the large month-to-month map within the heart of every situation of Sky & Telescope, the important journal of astronomy.

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 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 exhausting covers and enlarged for simpler studying open air by crimson 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; almost 3 times as many. The subsequent up, as soon as you realize your approach 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 need a good deep-sky guidebook, resembling 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 substitute charts? Not for newbies, I do not suppose, and never on mounts and tripods which might be lower than top-quality mechanically, which 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 creating the talents to seek 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.”

Audio sky tour. Out beneath the night sky together 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 higher now than ever earlier than. It is not that there is one thing new in our mind-set, it is that credulous and confused considering may be far 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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