Celestial events in the skies for the week of Feb. 21 – Feb. 27, 2017, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
February was the last month of the year in early Roman times when around 680 BC Emperor Numa Pompilius added January and February to the previous 10 month calendar to create the winter season. Which almost over…Spring Equinox is just four weeks away!
Tuesday, Feb. 21
Orion the Hunter dominates the late winter night. There are several “deep sky wonders” to see in Orion, even with binoculars, including the Great Nebula, or M-42, in the hunter’s dagger that dangles from his belt of three bright stars.
Wednesday, Feb. 22
Above the familiar stars of Orion are the “V” of Taurus the Bull, and to the Hunter’s left are the brother stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.
Deep sky objects are those seen in telescope—the nebulas, galaxies and star clusters you see in photos. Another special group, planetary nebulas, are named such because they look round like a planet. But they are the expanding shells of exploded stars.
Thursday, Feb. 23
Clusters of stars are abundant in the Winter sky, including the Double Cluster between Cassiopeia and Perseus, the Hyades Cluster of Taurus and the well known Pleiades or Seven Little Sisters.
Friday, Feb. 24
Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is directly south at 9 pm. It is also called the “Dog Star,” as it is in the Big Dog, Canis Major. The phrase “dog days of Summer” comes from ancient stargazers realizing Sirius is in the daytime skies of Summer, and wrongly thought its brightness added heat to Earth.
Saturday, Feb. 25
The Winter Circle of eight bright stars begin overhead with red Aldebaran in the V-shaped pattern of Taurus the Bull and continue with Capella in Auriga, Castor and Pollux in Gemini, Procyon in Canis Major, Sirius in Canis Major, Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion.
Sunday, Feb. 26
New Moon today, the orb being above our Sun in the daytime sky and invisible. Just 5 months until the Great American Eclipse when the New Moon passes in front of the Sun on Monday afternoon, Aug. 21st. About two minutes of total darkness will be witnessed west of the Tri-Cities, including parts of the Smokey Mountains, and Nashville.
Monday, Feb. 27
Looking northeast, the Big Dipper is standing on its handle and its bowl is pointing to the North Star, Polaris, which is always visible.