Some daily events in the changing sky for February 8 16.
Friday, February 8
Saturday, February 9
Sunday, February 10
Monday, February 11
Tuesday, February 12
Wednesday, February 13
Thursday, February 14
Friday, February 15
Saturday, February 16
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly foldout map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of maps; the standard is Sky Atlas 2000.0) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the even more detailed Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the enchanting though increasingly dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is hidden in the glow of the sunrise.
Venus (magnitude 3.9, in Sagittarius) is getting lower every morning. Look for it above the southeast horizon about 30 or 40 minutes before sunrise, to the lower left of Jupiter. On Friday morning the 8th Venus and Jupiter are still only 7° apart, but by Saturday the 16th they draw to 15° apart.
Mars (about magnitude 0.3, in eastern Taurus) shines very high in the south during evening, high above Orion. The fairly bright star near it is Beta (β) Tauri, also known as El Nath, magnitude +1.6 and pale blue-white. Mars is just about in the center of the big quadrilateral formed by Capella, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, and the Pollux-Castor pair.
In a telescope, Mars diminishes from 11.1 to 10.3 arcseconds in apparent diameter this week. See the observing guide and surface-feature map in the November Sky & Telescope, page 66, or the short version online.
Jupiter is getting easier to see low in the southeast during early dawn. It's moving farther to the upper right of Venus by 1° per day.
Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Leo) is nearly at opposition. It rises in the east in late dusk and stands highest in the south around midnight. Fainter Regulus (magnitude +1.4) is 6° west of Saturn: to its upper right after they rise. Only a little dimmer than Regulus is Gamma (γ) Leonis (magnitude +2.1), located 8° to Regulus's north. The three make an eye-catching triangle.
Uranus and Neptune are lost in the glow of sunset.
Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in Sagittarius) is low in the southeast before the first light of dawn.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith including the words up, down, right, and left are written for the world's midnorthern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Standard Time (EST) equals Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.
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