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Wednesday, February 01, 2017


The Sky This Week - Thursday February 2 to Thursday February 9

The First Quarter Moon is Saturday February 4.  Venus is prominent in the twilight and early evening sky in the star poor regions of Aquarius. Mars is just above Venus. The crescent Moon forms a line with Venus and Mars on February 2. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies with Saturn and Mercury close to the horizon below. Asteroid Vesta visible in binoculars.

The First Quarter Moon is Saturday February 4. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, on the 6th.

Evening sky on Thursday February 2 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:25 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line with the crescent Moon.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 60 minutes after local sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field in Aquarius. Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes. On the 2nd Venus, Mars and the crescent Moon form a line.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Aquarius, close to the Aquarius/Pisces border. Mars remains in a star poor area.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  2016 and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

The North-east horizon as seen in Australia at 22:00 pm ACDST (an hour and a half after sunset) showing the location of Vesta on Saturday February 4 (similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time, and hour and a half after sunset, click to embiggen).

The asteroid Vesta is just past opposition, and this is a excellent time to see one of the biggest asteroids in the solar system. At magnitude 6.5 it is easily viewable in binoculars. It is above the north-eastern horizon, and the bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, point to it. Over the next few nights it will be very close to kappa (𝛋) Geminorium, making Vesta very easy of find. Kappa (𝛋) Geminorium is the next brightest star in almost a line with Castor and Pollux, which makes it a easy telescopic signpost. You may need to watch night to night as the asteroid moves to be sure of its identity. For more details and a printable map see this page.

Sky on Saturday February 4 looking east as seen from Adelaide at midnight ACDST.  Jupiter is now rising before midnight. It is close to the bright star Spica. The inset shows Itelescopic view of Jupiter at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter rises even  higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the northern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise. It is also riging just before midnight, but remains low to the horizon this week. It is close to the bright star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter is a good telescopic target from around 1 am, and the dance of its Moons is visible even in binoculars. The following Jupiter events are in AEDST.

Thu  2 Feb 2017 03:05   Eur: Transit Ends                 
Fri  3 Feb 2017 00:47   Gan: Transit Ends                 
Fri  3 Feb 2017 06:12   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sat  4 Feb 2017 02:03   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sat  4 Feb 2017 04:56   Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S
Sat  4 Feb 2017 06:06   Io : Transit Begins               ST
Sun  5 Feb 2017 02:04   Io : Disappears into Eclipse      
Sun  5 Feb 2017 05:23   Io : Reappears from Occultation   
Mon  6 Feb 2017 00:33   Io : Transit Begins               ST
Mon  6 Feb 2017 01:37   Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T
Mon  6 Feb 2017 02:44   Io : Transit Ends                 
Mon  6 Feb 2017 03:41   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Mon  6 Feb 2017 23:32   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Mon  6 Feb 2017 23:51   Io : Reappears from Occultation   
Tue  7 Feb 2017 06:46   Eur: Disappears into Eclipse      
Wed  8 Feb 2017 05:19   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu  9 Feb 2017 00:54   Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S
Thu  9 Feb 2017 01:10   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian

Morning  sky on Saturday February 4 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:33 ACDST (60 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon with Mercury just below it . Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (60 minutes before sunrise). (click to embiggen).

 Saturn rises higher in darker morning skies this week. Saturn is now high enough above eastern horizon to see easily. It continues to climb into darker skies as the week progresses.

The constellation of Scorpio is a good guide to locating Saturn and Mercury. The distinctive curl of Scorpio is easy to see above the eastern horizon, locate the bright red star, Antares, and the look below that towards the horizon, the next bright object is Saturn, followed by Mercury.

Mercury is slowly returning towards the horizon but is still readily visible this week.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/


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