Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 March Celestial Highlights

March 17: Jupiter will be just above the 1st quarter moon for an eye catching sight.

Comet PanSTARRS:
This comet, while not likely appearing as bright as first thought, still has a good chance of being noticeable in the western sky 30 minutes after sunset between March 10 and March 20. The very thin crescent moon lies just to the right of the comet on March 12 and above it, sitting on its tail, on March 13. This whole event is iffy: it might be really good, or it might be really difficult to see. 
As famed comet modeler Fred Whipple once said, "If you must bet, bet on a horse, not on a comet."

Such is our view from Earth...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Now is the time for the year's best view of Mercury

The closest planet to the sun, Mercury, can be the toughest of all the so-called bright planets to spot. Its solar proximity makes it alway appear near the sun, being in the evening sky for not long after sunset. (Or, likewise, in the morning sky before sunrise.) Monday and Tuesday, see the little world reach its highest point in the western sky after sunset before it drops towards the sun. For the next week, follow Mercury as it descends eventually disappearing from view during the last week of February.

Look to the wsw about 6:40 for Mercury's pinpoint of light. If you see something, it is likely the planet as there are no stars in the area bright enough to punch through the bright twilight glow.

Such is our view from Earth...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mercury brightens, Mars fades away

Over the next two weeks, Mercury makes an appearance in our western sky forty minutes after sunset. Last night, it paired with Mars but now it is found much higher above the horizon than the Red Planet. Mercury can be seen with the unaided eye, but Mars requires binoculars. Mercury, at 121 million miles away, is brightening and quickly moving between the sun and the Earth, while Mars, at 214 million miles, is fading as it approaches the far side of the sun. Look to the west about 6:40 p.m. for the planetary pair. 

Such is our view from Earth...

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 2013 Celestial Highlights

Feb. 8 - 25: Mercury visible low in the west 40 minutes after sunset
Feb. 17: 1st quarter moon to the right of Jupiter
Feb. 18: moon to the left of Jupiter
Feb. 22: 8 pm, Winter solstice on Mars

Such is our view from Earth...