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Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The Sky This Week - Thursday February 21 to Thursday February 28

The Full Moon is Tuesday February 26. Jupiter is prominent in the early evening sky. Saturn enters the late evening sky. Venus is lost to view. Comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) continues to brighten. Comet 2011 L4 PanSTARRS just visible in the evening twilight.

Midnight sky on Saturday February 23 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 12:00 am local daylight saving time in South Australia. The inset shows a telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

The Full Moon is Tuesday February 26.

Saturn is now visible above the eastern horizon before midnight. Saturn climbs higher in the evening sky during the week, becoming easier to see.  Saturn is still better telescopically in the early morning. Saturn is in the constellation of Libra.

Mercury  is lost in the twilight.

Bright white Venus  is lost in the twilight.

Evening sky on Monday February 25 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 pm local daylight saving time in South Australia (about an hour after sunset). The inset shows the binocular view around comet PanSTARRS. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS has been seen in the morning with the unaided eye, and just seen in the evening low in the twilight. If you try looking an and a half hour before dawn you may see it very low above the horizon.

The comet is brightening as it comes closer to the Sun than the orbit of Venus. It has been spotted low in the evening twilight to the east. The comet appears to be brightening more slowly than predicted, and it is hard to estimate how bright it is in the reports I have seen, possibly around magnitude 4, certainly visible in binoculars and photographable.

To have a chance to see the comet you will need a fairly level, clear horizon like the ocean, and watch carefully as the twilight deepens. Binoculars have been used to see it, whether you can see it with the unaided eye is not clear (I haven't but the horizon was particularly murky when I tried). For detailed viewing instructions see here.

In late February/early March this may be a good unaided eye comet.

Evening sky looking North-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 pm local daylight saving time on Saturday February 23. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the times indicated here.  Click to embiggen.

Jupiter is visible for most of the night, and is the brightest object in the evening sky.

Jupiter is prominent in the northern early evening sky, being quite visible in the twilight. Jupiter is highest in the north by 8:00 pm, setting around 1 am. Jupiter is below the Hyades, near the red star Aldebaran. Jupiter remains near Aldebaran during the week, making it look as if the Bull has two eyes.

Jupiter, Aldebaran and the white star Rigel in Orion form a long line in the sky. With the Pleiades cluster and the constellation of Orion close by, this is a beautiful sight.

Now is a perfect time to observe Jupiter with a telescope of any size in the evening. Jupiters' Moons are easily seen in binoculars, and can be followed from night to night changing position.

Mars is lost in the twilight.

Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon's location as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACDST on Saturday 23 February.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand at equivalent local times.  (click to embiggen).

Comet  C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) is a nice little binocular comet.  It is brightening rapidly, and is visible as a fuzzy dot to the unaided eye in dark sky locations. However, the brightening Moon will make it difficult to see by the end of the week. 

You will need to use binoculars in suburban locations (and dark  sky locations around the full Moon), and to see it at its best you need a telescope or binoculars.

For charts, printable spotters maps and observing hints, see this page.

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 AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, seeSouthern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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