This Week’s Sky at a Glance, January 29 – February 6 – Sky & Telescope


■ The Moon, a day previous full, rises in late twilight. As soon as it is effectively up search for Regulus 4° or 5° to its decrease proper, and Algieba, barely fainter, an identical distance to the Moon’s left or decrease left.

These are the 2 brightest stars of the Sickle of Leo. Will the others be misplaced within the moonlight?


■ As soon as it is absolutely darkish, spot the equilateral Winter Triangle within the southeast. Sirius is its brightest and lowest . Betelgeuse stands excessive above Sirius, by about two fists at arm’s size. To the left of their midpoint is Procyon.

Are you able to discern their colours? Sirius (spectral kind A0) is chilly white, Betelgeuse (M2) is pale yellow-orange, and Procyon (F5) is paler yellowish white.


■ Excessive within the east this night, the asteroid 18 Melpomene, magnitude 9.4, creeps alongside solely about 0.1° from 4th-magnitude Alpha Cancri, which itself is lower than 2° from the open cluster M67. To determine the asteroid you should use the chart within the February Sky & Telescope, web page 49, however which will require -up work with a magnifying glass and a pencil level. Simpler can be a zoomable astro-software chart exhibiting Melpomene’s real-time place amongst fainter stars at a a lot bigger scale.

And about 1° southwest of Melpomene, such a chart also needs to determine the 10.0-magnitude asteroid 60 Echo. Each are very close to opposition tonight.

Trace: Indoors beforehand, overview how to use a chart with a telescope (whether or not a paper chart or on a display screen) if you have not but mastered the tips.

Final name for Mercury! Its in shiny twilight (and positively that of the faint stars) is vastly exaggerated right here. Carry binoculars.


■ Orion is now excessive within the southeast proper after darkish. Left of it’s Gemini, headed up by Castor and Pollux at far left. The stick-figure Twins are nonetheless mendacity on their sides.

Nicely under their legs is shiny Procyon. Standing 4° above Procyon is Third-magnitude Gomeisa, Beta Canis Minoris, the one different simple naked-eye star of Canis Minor. The Little Canine is seen in profile, however solely his again. Procyon marks his rump, Beta CMi is the again of his neck, and two fainter stars simply above which are the highest of his head and his nostril. These final two are solely 4th and fifth magnitude, respectively.


■ After it’s good and darkish, look due east, not too excessive, for twinkly Regulus. Extending higher left from it’s the Sickle of Leo, a backward query mark. “Leo broadcasts spring,” goes an outdated saying. Really, Leo exhibiting up within the night broadcasts the chilly, clammy, again half of winter. Come spring, Leo will already be excessive.


■ A favourite subject excessive overhead these nights is the wealthy Milky Method space on the dragging foot of the Castor stick determine, one of many Gemini twins. Right here lie two Third-magnitude crimson giants and the large, filmy, distended speckle of the open star cluster M35, whole magnitude about 5. However there’s extra: the compact cluster NGC 2129 gathered carefully round a pair of Seventh- and Eighth-magnitude stars; the very free group Collinder 29 with slightly Y asterism subsequent to it; and the deep crimson stars TV and 6 (or V) Geminorum. See Matt Wedel’s Binocular Spotlight column, “Within the Twins’ Toes,” within the February Sky & Telescope, web page 43, with chart. However a scope will do higher than binocs.

■ The waning Moon, virtually final quarter, rises round 11 p.m. relying in your location. As soon as it is up, search for Spica about 6° to its proper. Practically 30° to the Moon’s left or higher left is brighter Arcturus.


■ Final-quarter Moon (precise at 1:47 p.m. EST). Tonight the Moon rises round midnight relying in your location. Discover Arcturus about three fists to the Moon’s higher left and lesser Spica about half as far to the Moon’s higher proper.

By early daybreak on Friday the fifth the Moon is excessive within the south, Arcturus may be very excessive over it, and Spica is to its proper. A lot much less far to the Moon’ decrease left are the pinnacle of Scorpius and Antares, as proven under.

The waning Moon slides down over Scorpius earlier than and through daybreak, because it its rendezvous with the Solar to finish its present lunation.


■ Earlier than and through early daybreak Saturday morning the sixth, spot the waning crescent Moon within the south-southeast with Antares some 4° or 5° to its decrease proper, as proven above.


■ The sky’s largest asterism (casual star sample) — not less than the largest one which’s widely known — is the Winter Hexagon. It fills the sky towards the east and south these evenings. Begin with sensible Sirius at its backside. Going clockwise from there, march up by way of Procyon, Pollux and Castor, then Menkalinan and Capella on excessive, all the way down to Aldebaran, then to Rigel in Orion’s foot, and again to Sirius. Betelgeuse shines contained in the Hexagon, effectively off middle.

The Hexagon is considerably distended. However in case you draw a line by way of its center from Capella all the way down to Sirius, the Hexagon is pretty symmetric with respect to that axis.

■ Algol ought to be at its minimal brightness tonight, magnitude 3.Four as an alternative of its standard 2.1, for a pair hours centered 12:46 a.m. EST; 9:46 p.m. PST. Algol takes a number of extra hours to fade and to rebrighten.


This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury is dropping down from final week’s good apparition in night twilight, and it is also fading quick. On Friday January 29th Mercury remains to be virtually as excessive within the south-southwest because it was final week, however at simply magnitude +0.5 it might be surprisingly arduous to identify if you have not appeared in a number of days.

Simply three days in a while February 1st it is solely magnitude +1.5 and dropping sooner; see the highest picture above. Thus ends Mercury’s final night apparition till Might.

Venus is hidden deep within the glow of dawn. Count on it again within the night twilight come late spring.

Mars (magnitude +0.5, in Aries) shines pale yellow-orange excessive within the southwest after darkish. It units within the west-northwest round 1 a.m. Mars is barely Eight arcseconds broad now and remains to be as gibbous because it will get, 89% sunlit.

Jupiter and Saturn are out of sight behind the glare of the Solar.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Aries) is a number of levels under Mars in early night. In binoculars Uranus is slightly pinpoint “star.” However with an obvious diameter of three.6 arcseconds, it is a tiny, fuzzy ball at excessive energy in even a smallish telescope with sharp optics — throughout spells of excellent seeing. Finder chart (with out Mars).

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is sinking out of sight into the west-southwestern 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 Customary Time, EST, is Common Time minus 5 hours. (Common Time is often known as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time. For extra see Time and the Amateur Astronomer.)

Need to develop 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 masking the entire night sky, use the large month-to-month map within the middle of every problem 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 exhibits stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
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 right here is the Jumbo Version, which is in arduous covers and enlarged for simpler studying open air at night time. 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 recognize your approach round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And make sure to how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You will additionally desire a good deep-sky guidebook, equivalent to 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 are 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 abilities to search 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 hazards of not pondering clearly are a lot larger now than ever earlier than. It is not that there is one thing new in our mind-set, it is that credulous and confused pondering might 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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