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The Sky This Week – Thursday February 9 to Thursday February 16

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 7:25
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The Full Moon is Saturday February 11, it occults the bright star Regulus at this time.  Venus is prominent in the twilight and early evening sky in the star poor regions of Pisces. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the late evening skies. Saturn is high in the morning sky with Mercury close to the horizon below. Comet 45P may be visible in binoculars.

B4INREMOTE-aHR0cHM6Ly8zLmJwLmJsb2dzcG90LmNvbS8tZUVjQmc1bjBZUlUvV0puTDNHUm1ZU0kvQUFBQUFBQUFQQmMvN01qZEJhWjdNdklPb1FHZG13c3lkTDcxT2sxTHZlQTZRQ0xjQi9zMzIwL09jY3VsdF8xMS0wMi0xN18yMzAwLnBuZw== The Full Moon is Saturday February 11, it occults the bright star Regulus at this time.

The North-eastern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 23:00 ACDST, the bright star Regulus is close to the Moon just before it is occuted. Similar views will be seen elswhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

On the late evening of Saturday 11 February the bright star Regulus is occulted by the Moon as seen from the most of Australia. This is the first of two occultations of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion, this year. The Moon is a very obvious signpost for where to look and Regulus will be the brightest object near the Moon. Further details, viewing hints and timings for major cities can be found here.


Evening sky on Saturday February 11 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:17 ACDST (60 minutes after sunset). Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line. 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 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 Pisces. Venus is a distinct “waning Moon” shape in telescopes.

Mars is in the western evening skies in  Pisces. 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 6.8 it is easily viewable in binoculars. It is above the north-eastern horizon, and the bright stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, form a triangle with it. Over the next few nights it will be between to kappa (𝛋) Geminorium and upsilon (𝜐) 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 Wednesday February 15 looking east as seen from Adelaide at midnight ACDST.  Jupiter is now rising before midnight. It is close to the bright star Spica and the waning Moon. The inset shows the telescopic 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 9 Feb 0:54 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins S 
Thu 9 Feb 1:10 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu 9 Feb 3:10 Eur: Transit Begins ST
Thu 9 Feb 3:24 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends T
Thu 9 Feb 5:31 Eur: Transit Ends
Fri 10 Feb 0:22 Gan: Shadow Transit Ends
Fri 10 Feb 2:27 Gan: Transit Begins T
Fri 10 Feb 4:28 Gan: Transit Ends
Sat 11 Feb 0:38 Eur: Reappears from Occultation
Sat 11 Feb 2:48 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Sat 11 Feb 6:50 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S
Sun 12 Feb 3:57 Io : Disappears into Eclipse
Mon 13 Feb 1:18 Io : Shadow Transit Begins S
Mon 13 Feb 2:22 Io : Transit Begins ST
Mon 13 Feb 3:30 Io : Shadow Transit Ends T
Mon 13 Feb 4:27 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Mon 13 Feb 4:32 Io : Transit Ends
Tue 14 Feb 0:18 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Tue 14 Feb 1:39 Io : Reappears from Occultation
Tue 14 Feb 22:59 Io : Transit Ends
Wed 15 Feb 6:05 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu 16 Feb 1:56 GRS: Crosses Central Meridian
Thu 16 Feb 3:28 Eur: Shadow Transit Begins S
Thu 16 Feb 5:35 Eur: Transit Begins ST
Thu 16 Feb 5:58 Eur: Shadow Transit Ends T


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 . The inset shows the telescopic view of Saturn at this time. 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, this week is the last that it will be easily visible, by the end of the week it will be lost in the twilight.


Comet 45P on February 11 facing north-east at astronomical twilight in the morning as seen for most of Australia. Click to embiggen.

Comet 45P is around magnitude 6.5 and is visible in binoculars and small telescopes in the early morning sky.  It is currently showing as a small fuzzy patch with no hint of a tail.

On February 11 the comet will be closest to Earth and the comet may be seen to move visibly during the morning skies.

For more details and printable charts see here.

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)


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