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Find out about the latest night sky events and how to see them in this sky watching guide. (Image credit: Atid)
Which Planet Is In The Western Sky Tonight
Looking for a telescope for the next night sky event? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 (opens in new tab) as the top choice in our best telescopes for beginners guide.
Stargazers In Wales Wowed As Planets And Moon Align In The Night Sky
The night sky tonight and every clear night offers an ever-changing display of interesting things to see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers.
Observing the night sky can be done without special equipment, although a map of the sky can be helpful, and a good telescope or binoculars will improve some scenes and bring out some unseen objects. You can also use satellite accessories to make your viewing easier, and use our Satellite Tracker page powered by N2YO.com (opens in a new tab) to find out when and how to view International Station and other satellites. You can also capture the night sky using any of the best astrophotography cameras, along with a selection of the best astrophotography lenses.
Read on to see what's in the sky tonight (planets visible now, the moon, best observations this month) as well as other resources (astronomical terms, skywatching tips, and more reading).
Month-by-month information on observing the sky is provided by Chris Vaughan of Starry Night Education, a leader in science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu (opens in new tab) and Chris at @Astrogeoguy (opens in new tab).
The Sky This Week From January 24 To February 2
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During the month of February, Venus moved away from the Sun while Jupiter and the background stars were swept away from the Sun by the Earth's motion. In the western sky after sunset on Wednesday, March 1, the two planets will rise together in conjunction. Jupiter will be positioned half a degree to the left (or southeast sky) of the 5x brighter Venus, allowing them to share views with any backyard telescope. After their small separation tonight, Venus will increase its distance above Jupiter each evening. Both planets will remain binocular (orange circles) until Monday, March 6.
On Thursday, March 2, Mercury and Saturn will meet above the east-southeast before sunrise. Once you see Mercury's -0.62 dot magnitude at twilight, look for fainter Saturn a finger's width high to its left (or north of the sky). They will be close enough to share the field of view of a backyard telescope, but a clear view will not be possible if it is low in the sky. Looking further south, where the ecliptic is stationary, they are seen high up in a dark sky. Both planets will be close-up binoculars (orange circles) for several mornings. Be sure to remove all visual aids from the east end before sunrise.
On Thursday night, March 2, the bright moon will shine binocularly-closer (orange circle) to the bright star of Gemini Pollux. At dusk, the moon will be two finger widths to the right (or two degrees southwest) of Pollux in the eastern sky. Pollux's brother, the twin star Castor, will shine above them. As the night ends, the solar cycle of the sky turns Pollux and Castor to the right of the moon. As the Moon will also slide eastward in its path (the green line), early risers on Friday morning will see the trio forming a horizontal line in the upper west-northwest.
Those Bright Objects In The Sky, Explained
After twilight on Friday, March 3, the large open constellation known as the Beehive (or Messier 44) will be located a few fingers to the lower right (or 4 degrees south of the sky) of the bright moon. Conjunctions between M44 and the Moon or planets occur frequently because the cluster is located one degree above the ecliptic (green line) in the group of Cancer. The moon and the hive will share the field of view of the binoculars (orange circle), but the brightness of the moon will overpower the cluster stars. To see more of the "bee", hide the moon out of your field of vision. At midnight, the solar cycle of the sky turns the hive to the lower left of the moon.
On Friday night, March 3, the waning moon will set west of Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Sagittarius. The semi-circular side, 249 km in diameter, is a large crater covered with the same basalt that filled the vast Mara Imbrium to the east of it - forming a circular gulf at the western end of the horse. The blinding effect called the golden handle is created when the low light of the sun along the terminator illuminates the side eastern of the famous Montes Jura mountains around Sinus Iridum to the north and west. Sinus Iridum is almost craterless, but contains a set of northwest-facing ridges visible in this section. With the telescope in the backyard you can see where the mountains, actually the rim of the first crater, sink below the basalt, and form the areas called Laplace (up north) and Heraclides (south).
Due to the Moon's orbit and ellipticity, it nods up and down and swings from left to right by up to seven degrees while keeping the same hemisphere pointed at Earth. Over time, this moon release effect allows us to see 59% of the entire moon without leaving Earth. For several nights around Saturday, March 4, the bright moon in the southeast will circle Earth, revealing a collection of dark streaks that can be seen with a backyard telescope. Together they form the Mara Austral, the South Sea. The northern and southern boundaries of the mare are dominated by the distinctive dark ovals of the Uken and Hanu craters, respectively. Among them, look for the similar dark craters Brisbane Z and E and the large, light gray crater Lyot. In the evening, Mara Austral will be on the right side of the Moon. At about midnight, the horse flew directly under the moon.
In early March the sky's brightest star, Sirius, or Alpha Canis Myris, reaches its highest point in the sky at 7:45 p.m. Local Time. Sirius is a hot, white, A-class star. Its location only 8.6 light years from Earth is part of the reason for its brightness. For observers in the mid-northern latitudes, Sirius always shines a third of the way up the sky, through the thick blanket of Earth's atmosphere. This results in the strong clarity and bright colors that Dog Star is known for.
This Week's Sky At A Glance, March 3
As the monthly meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 7th at 8:40 am. EST, 5:40 a.m. PST, or 12:40 a.m. GMT, will be fully visible in America on Monday night and Tuesday night. The March Full Moon, known as the Worm Moon, Raven Moon, Sap Moon, or Midday Night Moon, always shines in or near the constellations of Leo or Virgo. The Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes region call this full moon Ziissbaakdoke-giizis "sugar moon" or Onaabani-giizis, "hard crust on the snow moon". For them it means time to balance their lives and celebrate the new year. The Cree of North America call it Mikisiwipisim, "eagle moon" - the moon that brings back the eagle. The Cherokee call it Anvyi, "Wind Moon," when the planting cycle begins anew. The full moon always rises in the east at sunset, and sets in the west at sunrise. When fully illuminated, the moon's topography is enhanced, especially the contrast between the tall ancient craters and the smooth young Maria.
If you live in an area with clear skies, you will be able to see the light of the zodiac from now until the new moon on March 21st. After the dawn disappears, you will have half an hour to look in the western sky to find a broad beam of faint light rising from the cliffs and towards the ecliptic above the planets Venus and Jupiter. This glow is the light of the zodiac - sunlight scattered from countless particles of matter that fill the plane of our solar system. Don't confuse it with the narrow strip of the Milky Way that stretches from the northwest at this time of year.
During March 2023, the largest object in the main asteroid belt, called (1) Ceres, will make a distant loop to the west that carries it through the northern edge of the Virgo galaxy cluster. On Saturday, March 11, the 7th-magnitude dwarf planet will pass 5 arc-mintes north of the famous spiral galaxy Messier 91. They will be close enough to be seen together in a backyard telescope (inset, orange circle) from March. 7 to 14. Ceres will brighten the eastern sky with
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