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This Week’s Sky: February 23 – March 2

The Moon meets up with Aldebaran and Jupiter and covers a star.

This weekend's gibbous Moon is idea for telescopic inspection. Courtesy Gary Seronik

This weekend’s gibbous Moon is ideal for telescopic inspection. Courtesy Gary Seronik

All Week

West after sunset

Facing west, one hour after sunset. (Click on the image for a full-size version.)

After their meet-and-greet on February 21, Mars and Venus have been moving apart. The brilliant “evening star” continues to climb higher, while its ruddy neighbour gradually loses ground to evening twilight. The real star of the planetary parade, however, is Jupiter. It rises well before sunset and is at its highest at around 11:30 in the evening. Gleaming at magnitude –2.5, it’s a standout even situated among the nearby bright stars of the winter sky. Saturn clears the southeastern horizon a little before 1:30 a.m., local standard time, and reaches the meridian at 6 a.m. — nearly an hour ahead of sunrise. Finally, Mercury is visible very low in the east during morning twilight. You’ll probably need binoculars to spot the 0.1-magnitude planet. This is one of its least favourable apparitions this year.

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) remains an evening-sky binocular target as it leaves Andromeda and enters Cassiopeia. Click here to read more about the comet.

February 24

This morning Mercury is at its greatest angle from Sun (27 degrees) in the morning sky. The planet, however, is only 6 degrees above the horizon 45 minutes before sunrise.

February 25

Moon and Aldebaran

The Moon and Aldebaran as seen in 10×50 binoculars.

This evening the first-quarter Moon and Aldebaran have a close encounter. As seen from Ontario, the lunar disc will lie just ½ degree (one Moon diameter) from the first-magnitude orange star. In binoculars or a small, low-power telescope, it should be a fine sight with many stars of the Hyades cluster adding to the view. For observers on the West Coast, the Moon will have moved a degree farther from the star by the time darkness falls.

February 28

Lunar occultation

The Moon and Lambda (λ) Geminorum moments before the occultation, as seen in a small telescope at low power.

Want to see something neat? If you live in a zone extending from Manitoba east, you can watch the Moon cover a modestly bright star this evening. The dark edge of the gibbous Moon will occults 3.6-magnitude Lambda (λ) Geminorum, causing the star to instantly disappear — blink at the wrong moment, and you’ll miss it. The occultation happens at 7:45 p.m., EST, for observers in Toronto. The farther east you are, the later the event takes place. For example, if you live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the occultation occurs at around 9:15 p.m., AST. The farther west you are, the earlier it happens. Be sure to start watching a few minutes before the scheduled time so that you don’t miss out. The star re-emerges from the lit side of the Moon roughly 1½ hours later.

March 2

ESE Moon and Jupiter

The view facing east-southeast as the Moon and Jupiter rise.

This evening the gibbous Moon lies south of Jupiter. The two are closest at 11 p.m., EST, (8 p.m., PST) when they’re separated by roughly 5½ degrees.

Weekend Stargazer

Seronik-Sinus Iridum

Image courtesy Gary Seronik

The February 27 – March 1 weekend is a fine one for Moon observing as the lunar disc is ideally placed high on the ecliptic where views are usually at their best. Turn your attention to the northern shore of Mare Imbrium. There you will find the poetically named Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows. This “bay” is actually the remnants of a huge crater. The original impact produced an impressive 260-kilometers-wide cavity. All that remains now is the arc of the Jura Mountain range — the northern part of the crater’s rim. It’s likely that the missing crater wall is buried under Imbrium lavas.

Late on Friday evening, Sinus Iridum’s eastern shore will catch the first rays of sunlight (remember that east and west on the Moon are opposite sky directions). But on Saturday night, you should be treated to the sight of the Golden Handle — the curving arc of the Jura Mountains extending into the darkness. Keep an eye out too for the subtle wrinkles that delineate Iridum’s submerged southern rim. Finally, on Sunday evening the Bay of Rainbows is fully illuminated.

At SkyNews we love to read about your experiences and see your photos. You can share them with us by e-mailing dickinsonSkyNews@gmail.com.

Categories: This Week's Sky

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