This Month’s Sky – February 2016

What’s Up in the Sky
AAA Observers’ February  Guide
By Tony Faddoul


February ’s Evening Planets:
Neptune is in Aquarius the Water Bearer until 7 PM, setting earlier every night until 6 PM by the end of February. Uranus is in Pisces the Fish until 11 PM, setting earlier toward 9 PM through the month. Jupiter will be between Virgo the Virgin and Leo the Lion as of 8 PM, rising earlier every night toward 6 PM at the end of the month.

February ’s Evening Stars:
The Winter Triangle will be up until midnight this month: Sirius, the brightest star viewed from Earth, is in Canis Major the Great Dog; Betelgeuse is in Orion the Hunter; and Procyon is in Canis Minor the Small Dog. Spot Rigel in Orion, Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Aldeberan in Taurus the Bull, and bright Castor and Pollux in Gemini the Twins. Also find the stars of constellations Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cepheus, Draco, Leo, Cancer, and Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the Big and Little Dippers).

February ’s Morning Planets:
Venus will be moving between Sagittarius the Archer and Capricornus the Sea-goat from 5 AM until sunrise. Mars will be in Libra the Scales as of midnight, lingering until sunrise. Jupiter can be seen be-tween Virgo and Leo until sunrise. Mercury is between Sag-ittarius and Capricornus around 6 AM. Saturn will be in Scorpio the Scorpion as of 3 AM until sunrise.

February ’s Morning Stars:
For a couple hours before sunrise, see the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. Look for Capella in Auriga, reddish Antares in Scorpius, Castor and Pollux in Gemini, Arcturus in Boötes the Herds-man, and Spica in Virgo, along with the stars of constellations Leo, Hercules, Libra, Cancer, Corona Borealis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor.


February  Skylights

Feb 2   Mars is 3° south of Moon, pre-dawn
Feb 6   Venus is 3° south of Moon, pre-dawn
Feb 8   New Moon at 9:39 AM
Feb 10 Moon at perigee (226,400 miles away)
Feb 15 First Quarter Moon at 2:45 PM
Feb 22 Full Moon at 1:20 PM
Feb 23 Feb Jupiter  is 1.7° north of
Feb 26   Moon at apogee (251,800 miles away)


Cosmic Valentines – A red Rose and a Heart
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just an Earthly celebration this February 14. You can spread your love on a universal scale with beautiful nebulae in the spirit of the holiday – the red rose of the Rosette Nebula, and the glowing heart of the Heart Nebula..  

Rosette Nebula
About 5,000 light-years from Earth lies Caldwell 49, the flower-shaped Rosette Nebula.. It is about 50 light years in diameter, and has 10,000 solar masses. There is a bright open cluster of stars in the middle of the nebula that lights it up. There are four nebulae associated with Rosette. They were charted visually in the past 200 years before astronomers realised that they are part of one nebula.
The nebula is famous for the numerous new-born stars. The star forming region is estimated to host 2,500 young stars.


Can we see the rose?
The Rosette Nebula is not visible to the naked eye, but you can see it with binoculars towards the constellation Monoceros the Unicorn.

Heart Nebula
IC 1805, or Sharpless 2-190, is known as the Heart Nebula. 7,500 light-years away in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, it is also an emission nebula, glowing with red light emitted by atomic hydro-gen.. Heart nebula has intense appearance because of the radiation originating from a small group of stars near the its center.The Heart Nebula has a companion to its east, the Soul Nebula IC 1848. Together they are called Heart and Soul.


Can I see the heart?
The Heart Nebula is too faint to be seen by naked eye. You’ll need a telescope to view it. The Heart can be found between constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus.