February 2019

• January 30th, 2019

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

A great morning lineup in the beginning of the month, a conjunction mid-month, all the naked-eye planets visible at some point in the month, winter constellations, and a great lineup ending the month is making February look like a GREAT month for naked eye astronomy.

 

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Mars (SW) until 11pm, Mercury (W – last two weeks)
  • Throughout the night – None
  • Morning – Saturn (SE), Venus (SE), Jupiter (SE)

Mercury

  • Should be able to catch it after sunset in the West, less than one fist-width above the horizon, but only for the last two weeks.

Venus

  • Rises around 4:00am, and is the brightest object in the morning sky, other than the Moon, and trails Jupiter by about one fist-width at the beginning of the month, and 3.5 fist-widths by the end of the month. Close to Saturn on the 18th.

Mars

  • Mars is already in the SW around sunset, traveling toward the W and setting a little after 11pm each night. Moves into Aries throughout the month. Dimmer, but still brighter than its surroundings.

Jupiter

  • Rising around 3am, Jupiter will be very bright in the morning, and the highest one in the SE.

Saturn

  • In the beginning of the month, Saturn rises in the SE around 6am, after and below Venus, but rises earlier each day. By the end of the month, it rises at 4am and is on the opposite side of Venus. It will pass, and be closet to, Venus on the 18th.

 

EVENTS...

New Moon – 4th (darkest skies)

First Quarter Moon – 12th (Visible until midnight)

Full Moon – 19th (Visible all night)

Last Quarter Moon – 26th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

Jan 30th – Feb 2ndMorning Lineup #1 – Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon will all be lined up in the SSE these four mornings.  Jupiter will be the highest planet, rising after 4am, with the brightest planet Venus trailing only 8˚ behind.  Saturn will be the hardest to find, very low on the horizon around 6:30am, and 20˚ down and to the left of Venus. Where does the Moon come in? On the 30th, it’s above Jupiter, and on the very next day it travels to within 2˚ to the right of Venus. Feb 1st it will be directly in between Venus and Saturn. February 2nd will be a challenge, but binoculars will help you find Saturn and an extremely thin crescent Moon down and to the left.

10thClose Encounter – Moon, Mars – Get out after sunset, find the crescent Moon, and Mars will be about 6˚ up to the right until they set around 11pm.

18thConjunction – Saturn, Venus – Get out in the morning after 5am but before 6:30ish and look low in the SE for Saturn and Venus less than 1˚ apart. Venus will be MUCH brighter and only a pinky’s width away from Saturn.  Don’t forget to check this out on the couple of days before and after, as the planets will still be close together.

26th – March 3rdMorning Lineup #2 – Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus – Any time after 5am these mornings, you’ll see the three planets lined up (bright Venus is lowest, dimmer Saturn a fist-width to the right and up a little bit, and Jupiter 2.5 fist-widths further from Saturn), with the Moon traveling through. 

                  26th – Moon is up and to the right of Jupiter

                  27th – Crescent Moon is just 2˚ above Jupiter

                  28th – Crescent Moon is in between Jupiter and Saturn

                  3/1 – Crescent Moon is about 3˚ up and to the right of Saturn

                           3/2 – Crescent Moon is about 5˚ to the right of Venus

                           3/3 – VERY THIN crescent Moon 6˚ down and to the left of Venus

 

 

CONSTELLATIONS...

(see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month)   

After Dinner:

Orion & his winter companions – By 7pm, Orion is about as high as it will get for the night about halfway up the southern sky, tempting us to tour the winter constellations. Begin by finding Orion by looking for three stars in almost a straight line and close to each other, Orion’s Belt, which is surrounded by a bigger, vertical, almost rectangle of stars. Orion will be our guidepost for the other winter constellations. Start at the left belt star and draw a straight line connecting them, then continue that line far past the last belt star about 20˚ or two fist-widths held at arm’s length. There you’ll find the V constellation Taurus, with bright red Aldebaran at the top left of the V. Taurus is part of a big cluster of stars known as the Hyades.  Remember that line you just made? Follow it just 10˚ further (one fist-width) and you’ll find a mini-mini-dipper of stars call the Pleiades, which is another open cluster of stars within our Milky Way Galaxy. Let’s go back to the belt, but draw the connecting line from right to left, and continue about 20˚ past the belt, where you’ll find the brightest star in the sky, Sirius. Perhaps you can also see the constellation Canis Major, known as the big dog. We’ll stop there for this month, and pick up next month with Gemini, Auriga, and Canis Minor.

Before Bed:

Auriga, Gemini – Look almost straight up, and you’ll find a pentagon shaped constellation which is the Charioteer Auriga, with its brightest star Capella. Gemini, the twins, will be to the left of Auriga, with bright Castor and Pollux heading them up. For reference, Orion will be below both of them.

Before Work:

Leo, Big Dipper – Leo will be more to the West than before, but the Big Dipper will be super big and bright above Leo’s backward question mark.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

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January 2019

• January 1st, 2019

Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

A lunar eclipse, a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus, and two good lineups of planets bookending the month make January a spectacular month to go out stargazing, if you don’t mind the cold.

A lunar eclipse, a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus, and two good lineups of planets bookending the month make January a spectacular month to go out stargazing, if you don’t mind the cold.

Naked-eye PLANETS...

  • Around Sunset – Mars (S) until 11pm
  • Throughout the night – None
  • Morning – Venus (SE), Jupiter (SE), Mercury (SE-1st half), Saturn (SE-last week)

Mercury

  • Should be able to catch it low in the SE, but only for the first two weeks, after 6am.

Venus

  • Still the highlight of every morning and easily visible about 30˚ above SE horizon, though that height will decrease to about 20˚ by month’s end. It rises as early as 3:30am. If you have binoculars or a telescope, you should easily see it in its half phase about half the size of Jupiter in your view. 2.5˚ from Jupiter on the 22nd.

Mars

  • Mars is already in the S around sunset, traveling toward the W and setting a little after 11pm each night. Moves through Pisces throughout the month. Dimmer, but still brighter than its surroundings.

Jupiter

  • Rising a little after 5am, down and to the left of Venus 18˚ at the start of January, Jupiter creeps closer to Venus every day. Jupiter closes the gap to about 2.5˚ on the 22nd, passing Venus, becoming the higher planet each morning after that.

Saturn

  • Passes behind the Sun this month, making it impossible for us to see. However, as we fly through this part of our orbit, Saturn should become visible by the last week, but you’ll have to look low on the horizon on a very clear morning with a very clear view after 6am.

 

EVENTS...

New Moon – 5th (darkest skies)

First Quarter Moon – 14th (Visible until midnight)

Full Moon – 21st (Visible all night)

Last Quarter Moon – 27th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

 

1st – 4thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury – Anytime after 6am these mornings, you’ll see the three planets lined up, with the Moon traveling through.  Every morning, Venus will be very bright about 30˚ above the horizon, with Jupiter about 20˚ down and to the left, and Mercury about 10˚ down and to the left of Jupiter. The Moon starts off not far above Venus on the 1st, but then descends to be almost equidistant between Jupiter and Venus on the 2nd. On the 3rd, you’ll find the Moon only about 3˚ to the left of Jupiter, and on the 4th you’ll struggle to see an extremely thin crescent only 3˚ above Mercury.

5thTechnically a Solar Eclipse – You’d have to be in the north Pacific Ocean or northeast Asia to see it. If you live there, Google it. But I’m guessing most of my 10 audience members live in North America.

12thConjunction – Moon, Mars – Get out after sunset, find the Moon, and Mars will be about 5˚ up to the right until they set around 11pm.

20th-21st TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE – Full Moon – A FANTASTIC eclipse for North and South America!  Late night, but not super late night, the night before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day!  Here’s how to watch it:

  • Get outside on the night of January 20th and find the full Moon.
  • At 10:10 p.m. EST, the penumbral portion will start. You probably won’t see anything happen though, since this is the lighter portion of the Earth’s shadow, and it barely dims the Moon’s surface.
  • At 10:34 p.m. EST, the partial eclipse begins. This is when the dark inner portion of the Earth’s shadow starts to engulf the Moon, taking about an hour to “eat it up”, leaving the eaten portion a dark red hue.
  • At 11:41 p.m. EST TOTALITY begins. If you start looking around now, look almost straight above you for a dark Moon.  The Moon is completely within the Earth’s shadow, but it will still appear a reddish/orange, since some sunlight has passed through the Earth’s atmosphere and, in passing, lost the BIV part of its spectrum and bent toward the Moon.  Essentially, you are witnessing the light from all of the sunsets and sunrises on Earth projected onto the Moon all at one time.  The Moon will be darkest at mid-eclipse, at 12:12 a.m.
  • At 12:44 a.m. EST, totality will end, and the Moon will begin its hour-long exit from the shadow of the Earth, ending at 1:51 a.m. EST. Technically, it’s still in the dim penumbral shadow until 2:15 a.m.

         More info at earthsky, timeanddate, and Sky & Telescope

22ndConjunction – Jupiter, Venus – Get out in the morning after 4:30am but before 7ish and look very low in the SE for Jupiter and Venus about 2.5˚ apart. Venus will be up and to the left of the dimmer Jupiter.  Don’t forget to check this out on the couple of days before and after, as the planets will still be close together.

30th – Feb 2ndMorning Lineup – Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon will all be lined up in the SSE these four mornings.  Jupiter will be the highest planet, rising after 4am, with the brightest planet Venus trailing only 8˚ behind.  Saturn will be the hardest to find, very low on the horizon around 6:30am, and 20˚ down and to the left of Venus. Where does the Moon come in? On the 30th, it’s above Jupiter, and on the very next day it travels to within 2˚ to the right of Venus. Feb 1st it will be directly in between Venus and Saturn. February 2nd will be a challenge, but binoculars will help you find Saturn and an extremely thin crescent Moon down and to the left.

 

CONSTELLATIONS...

(see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month)   

After Dinner:

Cassiopeia, Andromeda, & Perseus - Look pretty much straight up you’ll be able to see Andromeda curving off of one corner of Pegasus. If your skies are decently dark, you might catch the faint fuzz that is the Andromeda Galaxy.  Cassiopeia will be relatively easy to find as the “W” in the sky, whose right angle points right to Andromeda and her galaxy.  Perseus is the other cornucopia-shaped constellation, but opposite of Andromeda, with its curves emptying out toward the Pleiades

Before Bed:

Auriga – Look almost straight up, and you’ll find a pentagon shaped constellation which is the Charioteer Auriga, with its brightest star Capella. For reference, Orion will be below it to the South, with Taurus a little to the right of Orion (following his belt stars)

Before Work:

Leo – Look South, halfway up the sky, to find the backward question mark and right triangle that is Leo the Lion.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

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