Dark Skies February Update
The attached map shows the Night Sky as seen in Mid February at around 20.00hrs. By looking Southwards and holding the chart with S at the bottom, the centre of the map will show the stars overhead with the Northern sky behind you. Using the map earlier than 20.00 will mean the star patterns - Constellations, to use the correct term - will be shifted slightly to the East , while using later in the evening, the constellations will have moved more to the West.
By now, most of you will have noticed Venus blazing away in the Western Twilight sky at shortly after Sunset. Around the 20th and 21st of Feb, Venus will pass by the fainter planet Mars. Have a look for this in tripod mounted binoculars or, since a crescent Moon will also be close by on those days, grab your camera for this astronomical “photo opportunity”. The other bright planet still with us for the next couple of months is Jupiter, lying at the moment in the SE skies around 20.00.
There are no major meteor showers this month to look out for, but the “object of the moment” has to be Comet Lovejoy, which brightened somewhat unexpectedly and has, from early January onwards, become just visible to the naked eye if you know where to look. How much longer it will remain this way is unknown, comets are notoriously fickle in nature, and they can brighten and fade quite quickly. Keep an eye on the Elan Valley Astronomy face book page for observations of this and other objects in the sky.
For those with binoculars to hand, here’s a pleasing target to look for at the moment. Look Southwards and locate the constellation of Orion. Follow his “belt” upwards and to the right and you’ll find the bright “red/orange” star Aldebaran in the Constellation of Taurus. (Looks like a “V” on its side with the point to the right). Continue the line upwards and to the right and you’ll see a small compact “saucepan” group of stars. These are The Pleiades or Seven Sisters, although most people can only see six with the naked eye. Take a look with binoculars or telescope at low magnification and the Seven Sisters become a group of 50+ stars that are all one big open cluster of stars in space. Happy hunting!