Sky Map

Evening sky in February 2017

Many constellations derive their names from Greek mythology. Orion, the Hunter, in combat with Taurus, the Bull, currently seen above the northern horizon is a good example. In Taurus, look for two beautiful open clusters: the Pleiades (or Seven Sisters), known in Xhosa as isiLimela, and the Hyades, a V-shaped cluster representing the snout of the Bull. The reddish star near the Hyades is Aldebaran, a red giant. It lies at a distance of approx. 65 light years, so it is closer to us than the Hyades which are approx.150 light years away. The planetary probe, Pioneer 10, now travelling beyond the Solar System, is currently heading in the general direction of Aldebaran. If Aldebaran has zero relative velocity, Pioneer 10 will make its closest approach to the red giant in about 2 million years’ time.

Planets Venus and Mars are both in Pisces. Venus is prominent as the Evening Star after sunset, but sets early while Mars sets just after 21:00.

The Moon is in the evening sky until 12 February. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs on 11 February when the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow at 00:33. On 26 February a partial solar eclipse (52%) occurs, with maximum eclipse at 17:59.

 

 

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