Night Lights: Planets persist to shine

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Late in the evening, winter constellations such as Taurus, Pegasus and Andromeda have set already. But others show their glory — Orion with seven bright stars, among them red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, Auriga with yellow Capella, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, and Procyon and Sirius in the Canis Minor and Major, both arching toward the horizon from the Twins. Leo, a harbinger of spring, with Regulus in its front paw appears high in the south, the Big Dipper is now virtually overhead, blue Vega and Cygnus with Deneb is just above and the Little Dipper and Polaris, as always, are 60 degrees above the northern horizon. In the east, Bootes with red Arcturus appears.

Planets in the evening and all night:

You still can’t miss bright Jupiter as it rises in the northeast in the early evening, moving through the south and setting in the northwest when school starts in the morning. This winter it appears in Gemini, making a nice triangle with Pollux and its fainter twin, Castor. Farther to the right (west) you can see red Aldebaran’s arrowhead in Taurus, as well as the Pleiades star cluster, also called the Seven Sisters, or Subaru in Japanese. The gibbous moon is next to Jupiter on Feb. 10.

If you have good binoculars, prop your elbows on a car roof and observe Jupiter’s moons. You get good views every evening, but Feb. 24 you can see them lining up next to the giant planet in order of their distance — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Mars rises in the east around 11 p.m., next to Virgo’s Spica, both of them making a very acute triangle with Bootes’ Arcturus. The gibbous moon is nearby on Feb. 18 and 19.

Saturn rises around 1 p.m. It is joined by the crescent moon Feb. 25.

Uranus and Neptune appear too close to the sun, so that it would be too difficult so see them against bright twilight.

Andy Veh is an associate professor of physics, math and astronomy at Kenai Peninsula College.


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