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


■ Full Moon tonight (precisely full at 3:17 a.m. Saturday morning EST), shining below the stomach of Leo. In the night by the moonlight, search for Regulus 7° to the Moon’s higher proper. Then discover Algieba, a bit fainter, 7° above the Moon (for North America.) Bring binoculars to see by the glare – and perhaps to measure your manner: a typical binocular’s discipline of view is about 6° large.


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


■ It’s the tip of February. So quickly after darkish now, the Big Dipper rises as excessive within the northeast as Cassiopeia has descended to within the northwest. Midway between them, as all the time, is Polaris.


■ It’s not spring for one more 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.

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

By 10 or 11 p.m. Arcturus dominates the japanese sky.

■ Algol ought to dip to its minimal brightness, magnitude 3.Four as a substitute of its standard 2.1, for a couple 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 might be shining within the southwest, providing telescopic views of a part you are in all probability not used to. And spot Spica about 5° under the Moon (for North America).


■ Sirius blazes excessive within the south on the meridian by about Eight p.m. now. Using binoculars, look at the spot 4° south of Sirius (immediately under it when it is close to the meridian). Four levels is considerably lower than the width of a typical binocular’s discipline of view. Can you see a little patch of grey haze right here? That’s the open star cluster M41, about 2,200 mild-years away. Its whole magnitude provides as much as 5.0.Sirius, by comparability, is barely 8.6 mild-years away — and shines 400 occasions brighter.


■ After dinnertime at this time 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 proper. These are Ursa Major the Big Bear within the northeast (with the Big Dipper as its brightest half), Leo the Lion within the east, Hydra the Sea Serpent within the southeast, Canis Minor the Little Dog increased within the south-southeast, and vivid Canis Major the Big Dog within the south.


■ Mars is about 3° left of the Pleiades this night by Saturday night. Its background stars slide down a little farther to the decrease proper every day, as seen under.

Mars passing the Pleiades. It will 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 evening.

■ 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 under. Look very low within the east-southeast about a half hour earlier than dawn. Bring binoculars to see higher by the brilliant sky. They’ll be 0.6° aside for North America. Look rigorously; Mercury is barely an eighth as vivid as Jupiter.

Also at daybreak on the fifth: The final-quarter Moon shines within the south with Antares 5° under 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 westward and brings his canine, Canis Major with Sirius, into that exalted meridian-transiting standing.In a moonless darkish sky, the celebs of Canis Major may be related to kind a good canine profile, however by a brighter sky solely his 5 brightest stars present properly. These kind the unmistakable Meat Cleaver. Sirius and Murzim (to its proper) are the Cleaver’s large prime finish, with Sirius glowing on its prime again nook. Down to Sirius’s decrease left is the Cleaver’s different finish, together with its brief deal with, fashioned by the triangle of Adhara, Wezen, and Aludra. The Cleaver is chopping towards the decrease proper.

■ Want to attempt for Sirius B, the well-known white dwarf? Sirius A and B are actually at 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’ll need at least an 8-inch scope, a evening of actually wonderful seeing (hold checking evening after evening), Sirius at its very highest like it’s now, and the Sirius-B-looking ideas in Bob King’s article Sirius B – A New Pup in My Life.The Pup is east-northeast of the Dog Star and 10 magnitudes fainter: one ten-thousandth as vivid. 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. Hide blinding Sirius A simply behind the strip’s japanese edge.


■ With the Moon gone from the night sky, that is a advantageous week to search for the zodiacal mild when you reside within the mid-northern latitudes. At this time of 12 months the ecliptic tilts excessive upward from the western horizon at dusk. From a clear, clear, darkish web site, look west at the very finish of twilight for a imprecise however big, tall pyramid of pearly mild. It’s tilted to the left, aligning alongside the constellations of the zodiac.

What you are seeing is sunlit interplanetary mud orbiting the Sun close to the ecliptic aircraft.

■ Also for these moonless nights: Certain 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 vivid daybreak. But Jupiter and Saturn are getting a little increased and more easy 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 under. With the sky that vivid, convey binoculars.

Mercury fades from magnitude +0.2 to +0.6 this week. Saturn is magnitude +0.7, whereas Jupiter, although decrease, is far 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.

Day by day, watch Jupiter shut in on Mercury till they go one another on March fifth.Venus is out of sight within the glare of the Sun.

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

Upper 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’ll be passing 7° aside at the flip of spring on March 20th. And by the way in which, Mars and March have the identical root. Our month identify comes from the Roman Martius, “month of Mars.”)

In a telescope Mars is a mere 6 arcseconds large: a tiny vivid blob.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in western Aries) is way under 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 depend upon longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time, EST, is Universal Time minus 5 hours. (Universal Time is often known as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time. For the down-and-soiled particulars see Time and the Amateur Astronomer.)

Want to develop into a higher astronomer? Learn your manner across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding every little thing fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an out of doors nature interest. For a straightforward-to-use constellation information masking the entire night sky, use the massive month-to-month map within the heart of every subject of Sky & Telescope, the important journal of astronomy.

Once you get a telescope, to place it to good use you may want a detailed, giant-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The fundamental customary is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the unique or Jumbo Edition), which reveals stars to magnitude 7.6.

The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and lots of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Shown right here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in arduous covers and enlarged for simpler studying outdoor by crimson flashlight. Sample charts. More in regards to the present editions.Next up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; almost 3 times as many. The subsequent up, as soon as your manner round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And you’ll want to learn find out how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You’ll additionally need a good deep-sky guidebook, equivalent to Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the larger (and illustrated) Night Sky Observer’s Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope change charts? Not for freshmen, I do not suppose, and never on mounts and tripods which might be lower than prime-high 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 cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand.”

Audio sky tour. Out below the night sky with yourearbuds in place, take heed to Kelly Beatty’s monthlypodcast tour of the heavens above. It’s free.

“The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It’s not that there’s something new in our way of thinking, it’s that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.”            — Carl Sagan, 1996

“Facts are stubborn things.”            — John Adams, 1770


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