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


■ Full Moon tonight (precisely so at 3:17 a.m. Saturday morning EST). It is underneath the stomach of Leo. This night via the moonlight, search for Regulus, Alpha Leonis, 7° to ’s higher proper. Then discover Algieba, Gamma Leonis, a bit fainter, 7° above the Moon (for North America.) Carry binoculars to chop via the glare – and perhaps to measure your method. A typical binocular’s discipline 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 Large 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 isn’t spring for an additional 19 days, however the Spring Star Arcturus appears wanting 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 japanese sky.

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

■ Algol ought to dip to its minimal brightness, magnitude 3.Four as an alternative of its ordinary 2.1, for a pair hours centered on 11:21 p.m. EST (8:21 p.m. PST).

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


■ Sirius blazes excessive within the on the meridian by about Eight p.m. now. Utilizing binoculars, look at the spot 4° south of Sirius (immediately beneath it when it is on the meridian). 4 levels is considerably lower than the width of a typical binocular’s discipline of view. Are you able to see slightly patch of grey haze right here? That is the open star cluster M41, about 2,200 light-years away. Its whole magnitude provides as much as 5.0.

Sirius, by comparability, is barely 8.6 light-years away and shines 400 occasions brighter.


■ After dinnertime at the moment 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 best. These are Ursa Main the Large Bear within the northeast (with the Large 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 Large Canine within the south.


■ Mars is about 3° left of the Pleiades this night via Saturday night. Its background stars slide down slightly farther to the decrease proper every , as seen beneath.

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

■ Algol shines at minimal mild for about two hours centered on 8:10 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 Roundup beneath. Look very low within the east-southeast a couple of half hour earlier than dawn. Carry binoculars to raised see via the brilliant sky. They will be 0.6° aside for North America. Look rigorously; Mercury is barely an eighth as brilliant 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 him slightly westward and brings his canine, Canis Main with Sirius, into that exalted meridian-transiting standing.

In a moonless darkish sky, the celebs of Canis Main will 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, fashioned by the triangle of Adhara, Wezen, and Aludra. The Cleaver is chopping towards the decrease proper.

■ Need to attempt for Sirius B, the well-known white-dwarf companion? Sirius A and B at the moment are 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 at the very least an 8-inch scope, an evening of actually glorious 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 ’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 brilliant. As Bob recommends, put a do-it-yourself occulting bar throughout your eyepiece’s discipline cease: a tiny strip of aluminum foil held with a little bit of tape. Disguise blinding Sirius A simply behind the strip’s japanese edge.


■ With the Moon gone from the night sky, it is a effective week to search for the zodiacal light when you stay within the mid-northern latitudes. Presently of 12 months 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 the Solar close to the ecliptic aircraft.

■ 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 brilliant daybreak. However Jupiter and Saturn are getting slightly 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 brilliant, deliver binoculars.

Mercury fades from magnitude +0.2 to +0.6 this week. Saturn is magnitude +0.7, whereas Jupiter, although decrease, is way brighter at magazine –2.0.

Watch Jupiter shut in on Mercury day-to-day. They attain conjunction, about 0.6° aside for North America, on the morning of March fifth.

Daily, 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 +0.9, in Taurus) passes the Pleiades this week. Look excessive within the west in early night.

Higher left of Mars shines Aldebaran, basically the dual of Mars in brightness now in addition to shade. Their separation shrinks from 15° to 12° this week. (They will 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 brilliant blob.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, 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 on 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 turn out to be a greater astronomer? Study your method across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding every little thing 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 masking the entire night sky, use the massive month-to-month map within the middle of every difficulty 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 lot 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 8.5; almost 3 times as many. The following up, as soon as you realize your method round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And make sure you learn how to use sky charts with a telescope.

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

Can a computerized telescope substitute charts? Not for novices, 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 Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, “A full appreciation of the universe can not come with out creating the abilities to seek out issues within the sky and understanding how the sky works. This data 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, hearken to Kelly Beatty’s month-to-month
podcast tour of the heavens above. It is free.

“The hazards of not considering clearly are a lot higher 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 will be way more deadly in methods it was by no means earlier than.”
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

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




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