Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: February 8-14, 2021
With a New Moon midweek this is a big week for stargazers. It’s arguably the best week of the year for looking up since the night sky in the northern hemisphere never gets darker, nor as crisp. Nor does it ever have as many bright, shining stars as in February—so get outside and check-out the constellations of Orion, Taurus, the Pleiades and the other jewels of the winter night sky. However, the highlight will come just before sunrise in the east on Thursday when Venus and Jupiter will be in close conjunction.
It’s also a landmark week for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which will become only the fifth nation to reach Mars when its “Hope” probe goes into orbit on Tuesday.
The red planet will also be the only bright planet to see at night this week, though it’s now fading as the distance between Earth and Mars spikes.
Either way, it’s a very fine week to get outside looking up.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021: ‘Hope’ reaches Mars
Today sees the arrival at Mars of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), an ambitious project from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to explore the atmosphere of the red planet.
Nicknamed “Hope,” EMM will enter a capture orbit around Mars today and begin its mission to provide a comprehensive view of the weather system across all regions of the planet at all times of the day throughout a 687-day Martian year.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021: ‘Tianwen-1’ reaches Mars
Hot on the heels of “Hope” is Tianwen-1, China’s spacecraft, which is scheduled to also reach the orbit of the red planet today and be captured by the gravitational pull of Mars. Inside is a rover, though that won’t land on the surface until May 2021.
Planet of the week: Mars
With Neptune and Uranus very tricky to find, the “visible” planets in February 2021 are Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Only the latter is easily visible this month, though it’s fast dimming as its distance from Earth increases.
Despite that you can easily see the red planet after dark any night this month by looking high in the southern night sky.
Thursday, February 11, 2021: Venus and Jupiter in conjunction during a New Moon
Just before sunrise in southwestern sky this morning it will be possible to see the two brightest planets—Venus and Jupiter—shining a mere 0.4º from each other. Check the sunrise time where you are and look very low to the southwestern horizon 30 minutes before. It will occur very close to the horizon and will be visible only for a very short time before the sky brightens.
Today at 19:08 UTC a New Moon will pass underneath the Sun to begin a new orbit of Earth.
Object of the week: Beehive Cluster (M44)
This week’s dark skies are perfect for getting eyes-on with one of the most impressive open clusters of stars in the night sky. Found in the otherwise sparse constellation of Cancer, the crab, the Beehive Cluster—also called M44 and Praesepe (meaning “manger” in Latin)—is a group of stars about 580 light years distant.
You’ll find it—from now through May—roughly halfway along a line imagined between bright star Regulus in Leo to Pollux in Gemini. You’ll see about 60 stars in binoculars.
Constellation of the week: Gemini, the twins
Although a well known constellation because it’s part of the zodiac, Gemini is elusive in urban skies save for its two brightest stars—Pollux and the slightly dimmer Castor. Known as the “Heavenly Twins,” they’re 34 and 50 light-years distant (so in our close cosmic neighborhood), respectively, though Castor is actually an exotic six-star system.
Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
This article is auto-generated by Algorithm Source: www.forbes.com