Photo of the Week. Sunray spectacular, cloud shadows
thrown across the sky.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, February 5, 2010.
Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule. Thanks for your
Happy Birthday! The Star of the
Week, born January 30, 1998 (with Aldebaran as the first star), is
twelve years old. The archive has grown as of this writing to 635
stars. With one more (below) to add and many more to follow.
We begin our more normal single week with the last (third) quarter Moon, which takes place
the night of Friday, February 5, 2010, well before Moonrise in
North America. Seems odd to write "2010," almost futuristic. The
then wanes in the crescent
phase toward new, that phase not taking place until Saturday
the 13th. Your last view of the slim
crescent may be had in twilight the morning of Friday the 12th.
slipping away, will be to the southwest of the Moon at that time,
but will be a tough find. The night of Saturday the 6th (rather
the morning of Sunday the 7th, as we must wait 'till after
Moonrise) finds the Moon to the west of Antares of Scorpius, while the following morning we will see the
Moon flipped to the other side of the star.
In the evening, Jupiter is a
more than a tough find, as it now sets in mid-twilight, and after
and nice long run is effectively gone except to the truly
dedicated. But not so Mars and
Saturn. While they are about all we have left in the planetary
sky, their prominence more than makes up for the general lack.
Already up in the east at sunset, but still close to opposition to
the Sun, Mars
crosses the meridian to the south
around 11:30 PM as it dominates the faint stars of Cancer (the celestial Crab) to the north of the charming Beehive star cluster, providing a
fine chance to find and look at the thing, the cluster a lovely
sight in binoculars. Well before Mars transits, Saturn rises in Virgo, still to the east of the Autumnal Equinox between Regulus (in Leo) and Spica.
Locating all four -- Mars, Regulus, Saturn, Spica -- gives a sort
of natural dotted line that traces out the ecliptic, the apparent path of
the Sun, near which the planets roam.
Two scary figures hold their heads above the celestial equator, the pair neatly split
by the head and shoulders of Orion (who, apparently not aware of them, does not hunt
them in any known mythology). To the west is the roundish head of
Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster,
while to the east, below Cancer (and now Mars), is the more
distorted oval that makes the head of Hydra, the Water Serpent. To the west of Cetus, find
Aquarius's Y-shaped Water Jar, while to the east of
Hydra's head the modern figure of Sextans, the Sextant, water of prime importance to both
ancient and modern makers of the constellations.