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Tuesday, February 21, 2017


The Sky This Week - Thursday February 23 to Thursday March 2

The New Moon is Monday February 27.  Venus is bright low in the twilight sky. Mars is just above Venus. Mars is close to Uranus on the 27th. The Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Venus on March 1. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the late evening skies. Saturn is high in the morning sky.

The New Moon is Monday February 27.

Evening sky on Wednesday March 1 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 20:18 ACDST (30 minutes after sunset). Venus, Mars and the crescent Moon form a triangle . The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus at this time.

 Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time (that is 30 minutes after local sunset, click to embiggen).

Venus  is low in the dusk sky although intensely bright. After being a feature of the evening sky for so long, it is now rapidly heading towards the horizon and will soon be lost in the twilight.

It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to just after half an hour after sunset. It is dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in the early twilight and is a distinct crescent shape.

On the 28th the thin crescent Moon is nearby Venus, but will be hard to see in the twilight.  The Moon forms a triangle with Mars and Venus on March 1. and the Moon is above Mars forming a line with Venus and Mars on the 2nd.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Pisces. Mars remains in a star poor area but on the 26th and 27th Mars and Uranus are closer than a finger-with apart and easily seen together in binoculars and in medium power telescope eye-pieces. Unfortunately Mars and Uranus are getting close to the horiozn, so you will need to look around an hour after sunset, before the sky is fully dark. Still, Uranus is bright enough to spot as a dot in binoculars, although you will really need a telescope to bring out the blue-green colour of Uranus next to the red of Mars.

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.

Late evening sky on Saturday February 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 23:30 ACDST.  Jupiter is now rising before midnight. It is close to the bright star Spica. The inset shows the telescopic view of Jupiter at 1:12 am as Europa is about to disappear nto eclipse. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is rising just before midnight, but remains low to the horizon this week and is still better in the early morning. 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 23 Feb 2:41 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Thu 23 Feb 6:03 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Thu 23 Feb 22:32 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Fri 24 Feb 5:43 Gan: Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Sat 25 Feb 1:12 Eur: Disappears into Eclipse 
Sat 25 Feb 4:19 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sat 25 Feb 5:23 Eur: Reappears from Occultation 
Sun 26 Feb 0:10 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Sun 26 Feb 23:29 Eur: Transit Ends 
Mon 27 Feb 5:05 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Mon 27 Feb 5:57 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Mon 27 Feb 5:57 Io : Transit Begins               ST 
Mon 27 Feb 22:19 Gan: Reappears from Eclipse 
Mon 27 Feb 23:31 Gan: Disappears into Occultation 
Tue 28 Feb 1:27 Gan: Reappears from Occultation 
Tue 28 Feb 1:48 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian 
Tue 28 Feb 2:12 Io : Disappears into Eclipse 
Tue 28 Feb 5:14 Io : Reappears from Occultation 
Tue 28 Feb 23:33 Io : Shadow Transit Begins        S 
Wed  1 Mar  00:23   Io : Transit Begins               ST
Wed  1 Mar  01:45   Io : Shadow Transit Ends          T
Wed  1 Mar  02:33   Io : Transit Ends                 
Wed  1 Mar  23:41   Io : Reappears from Occultation   
Thu  2 Mar  03:26   GRS: Crosses Central Meridian

Morning  sky on Saturday February 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:34 ACDST (90 minutes before sunrise). Saturn is reasonably high above the horizon.

The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 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. 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.
Mercury is  lost in the twilight.

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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