Celestial events in the skies for the week of Feb. 13 – 19, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
New Moon is Thursday, so the nights and mornings are dark and perfect for astrophotography. And by Saturday night the fingernail crescent will be hanging over the western horizon.
Tuesday, February 13
The Winter Octagon is on display with an amazing eight first magnitude stars and the planet Jupiter. Starting above Orion, the stars are red Aldebaran, yellow Capella, Castor, Pollux, Procyon, brightest star Sirius, Orion’s knee Rigel and shoulder Betelgeuse.
Wednesday, February 14
The Lover’s Day begins with three planets strung like colored gems in the pre-dawn sky from 4:30-6 am. To the south and brightest is golden Jupiter in the constellation Cancer, rising around midnight. Left of Jupiter is reddish Mars in Scorpius, and further left close to the horizon in Sagittarius is yellow Saturn.
Thursday, February 15
On this 2013 date in space history, a million Russian people dodged a bullet as a meteor exploded during the morning rush hour over the town of Chelyabinsk. The quarter-mile long cosmic interloper was at a near parallel angle when it blew up, injuring 1,500 people and doing millions of dollars damage.
Friday, February 16
The Sun enters the constellation Aquarius the Water Carrier, but astrology wrongly says the Sun is entering Pisces the Fishes, a constellation ahead.
Saturday, February 17
Directly north is the Big Dipper, standing on its three-star handle. As the night wears on, the Big Dipper will empty the contents of its four-star bowl over the landscape. These seven famous stars are just part of a much larger constellation, Ursa Major, the Great Bear.
Sunday, February 18
On this 1930 date in astronomy history, Clyde Tombaugh discovered “Planet X” on photographic plates after two years of intense searching. Called the ninth planet Pluto until 2006 when declassified to a “dwarf planet.” Visited by NASA’s New Horizon in July 2015, Pluto is one of the most interesting and dynamic worlds circling the Sun.
Monday, February 19
On this 1986 date in space history, Russia launched the Mir Space Station, an important link between our Skylab and the 19 years the International Space Station has been occupied 250 miles overhead. Mir was deorbited in March 2001 after being visited 9 times by America’s Space Shuttle, exchanging crews and bringing supplies.