Southern Cross Stargazer for Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2013

 

Sunday

Tonight the bright moon leads Leo the Lion higher in the east. The Big Dipper rises in the northeast. Its “bowl” always faces Polaris, North Star as it cruises on its circumpolar path around Polaris. The two top stars in the bowl align with the North Star that marks the tip of the Little Dipper’s handle. When the Big Dipper clears the northeastern horizon, aim binoculars to the “double star” in the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle. The color of each star indicates its age bracket. Gold color for mid-age and bluish color for younger stars.

Jupiter glows overhead against the stars of Taurus, Bull. Below Jupiter, ruddy Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) shimmer ahead of Jupiter. Bright Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, across the northern sky. Mighty Orion, Hunter, climbs higher in the east, followed by his Little Dog, Procyon. The Great Orion Nebula (a gas cloud where stars are born) glows from Orion’s sword. The Gemini Twins: Castor and Pollux bring the dim Beehive cluster higher in the northeast. The Royal Family turns toward the northwest.

The Northern Cross stands on the northwestern horizon. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, toward the western horizon. Dim Mars lies low in the southwest. Neptune, in Aquarius, sails toward the southwestern horizon. Blue-green Uranus lies in Pisces, Fish in the southwest. Mid-evening, blue Sirius sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog running on its hind legs in the southeast. Late evening, brilliant Canopus, in the ancient ship Argo, radiates rainbow colors low in the south. Late evening, bright Arcturus sparkles in the east, beyond the tip of the Big Dipper’s handle. Arcturus, an orange giant star, is 23 times larger than our sun.

Mercury returns to the evening sky next week.

Thursday

By 6 a.m. the waning moon floats near kite-shaped Corvus, Crow, in the southwest. Silver Saturn, in Libra, follows Spica, in Virgo, across the south. Huge Scorpius climbs above the southeastern horizon. Antares, a red supergiant, is known as the red heart beating in the Scorpion’s torso. Bright Vega twinkles in the northeast. The Summer Triangle appears on the northeastern horizon. Arcturus sparkles overhead. Jupiter sets in the west in the predawn.

Saturday

Before dawn, the waning moon forms a triangle with Spica (upper right) and Saturn (upper left) in the south. Bright Venus glows in Sagittarius on the southeastern horizon.

•  Look: Open Spaceweather.com for superb photos of solar and aurora activity.

Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org

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