03 February 2010

Sky this month

Winter is the best season for observing the night sky. Just by going out and looking up at the sky, one can see many stars, planets, constellations and so on.

Planets

Mars: The highlight of the month is the red planet Mars. Mars is located in the constellation of Cancer the crab. Mars is at opposition now and will be bright throughout this month. After sunset, look towards east and the bright big reddish "star" you see would be Mars. Mars is shining at a magnitude of -0.79 today and by the end of this month, it would be reduced to -0.4. It will fade in the months to come.


Image courtesy: NASA

Jupiter: This month will be the last month to see Jupiter in the evening sky. The Big Gas Planet which is in the constellation of Aquarius, would be invisible by the end of this month. It can be seen just after the sunset towards west. It is -2.0 magnitude bright.
Feb 16-17, Jupiter will be very close to Venus but both the planets will be hard to see as they will be hidden behind big buildings.

Mercury: This month, Mercury will be a morning object. First week of this month, it will be visible half an hour before sunrise near the eastern horizon but later this month, it will be very difficult to see. Currently it is in the constellation of Sagittarius. It should be noted that Mercury never rises very high in the sky since its orbit is very close to the Sun.

Venus: Venus will be a "Evening star" again starting this month. I would be low in the western sky this entire month. It will start to rise up in the months to come. If you are planning to observe Venus, please take care not to look directly at the sun.

Saturn: The ringed planet Saturn will rise late in the night at 21:45. It is located in the constellation of Virgo. It will be visible to the naked eye as a bright star (magnitude +1.0). However, through small telescopes, it is a treat to the eyes. Through telescopes, the ring would look edge on.


Image courtesy: NASA

Moon:
Here is a list of phases of the moon for the month of Feb 2010. The time given are in UT. To convert the time to IST, simply add 5 hours and 30 minutes to the given time.
    New Moon        First Quarter        Full Moon         Last Quarter
---------------- ---------------- ---------------- ----------------
2010/02/14 02:52 2010/02/22 00:43 2010/02/28 16:38 2010/02/05 23:49
If you are new to astronomy and struggling to identify planets, moon can be used to identify planets on these dates.

Feb 2nd: Moon was close to Saturn (8° away). Mar 1st, again, moon will be close to Saturn.
Feb 12th Morning (Before sunrise): Thin crescent moon will be 2 deg from Mercury.
Feb 26 -evening: Moon passes close to Mars (5°)

Comets:
There are no bright comets in the sky right now.
Some comets which will be visible though small telescopes are Comet 81P/Wild 2 and Comet C/2007 Q3 (Siding Spring). Very dark and clear skies are needed to observe both.

Meteor Showers:
No major meteor showers this month.

Know your Stars
A program called Know your stars will be conducted in Planetarium every 1st Sunday of the month in collaboration with ABAA. Be there by 6:30PM to know more about the heavens. At the end of the session, there will be a sky watch session in which members of ABAA will show the highlights of the sky through telescopes.

3 comments:

  1. I saw something like a bright start around 3: 30 this morning. It was way brighter than anything in the vicinity and looked a lot closer too. It was moving in a south-eastern course and in about 15 minutes i could not see it any-more. For a couple of minutes it seemed that it was approaching closer but then kept moving away until i lost track. Can anyone tell me which start it was. Thanks in advance.

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    Replies
    1. Raghavendra, what you might have seen could be a ISS, international space station. It moves very fast. When it appears it will be very bright. However one can see it either during sun set or before sun rise. This is not visible on every day.

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