Southern Cross Stargazer for Feb. 17-23, 2013



First quarter moon occurs at 3:31 p.m. Tonight, aim binoculars on the sunlit craters and mountains protruding from the straight side of the moon. The moon forms a triangle with the delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades star cluster) above and the V-shaped Hyades cluster with ruddy Aldebaran below bright Jupiter. The stunning celestial group floats against the stars of Taurus, the Bull. Mercury gleams 10 degrees above dim Mars near the southwestern horizon. Gigantic Orion, the Hunter, strides high across the south in pursuit of the Bull. The Great Orion Nebula (stellar nursery) glows from Orion’s sword below his belt. His left shoulder star, Betelgeuse, is a red supergiant. Procyon, the Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius (a nearby star) sparkles in Orion’s Big Dog trotting on hind legs in the southeast, trailed by the Pups.

The Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux, climb toward the zenith. The dim Beehive star cluster follows the Twins. Bright Capella guides Auriga, the Charioteer, across the north. The Royal Family turns into the northwest. Aries, the Ram, chases Pegasus (the Winged Horse) onto the western horizon. Mid-evening, Leo, the Lion, crawls higher in the east. The Big Dipper rises in the northeast. Its bowl always faces Polaris, the North Star. The Little Dipper’s handle appears attached to Polaris. By midnight silver Saturn, in Libra, follows Spica, in Virgo, across the southeast. Jupiter sets in the west-northwest soon after midnight. Asteroid DA14, which cruised between the moon and Earth, fades to 11th magnitude on its path toward Polaris.


By nightfall, Mercury lies 10 degrees above the southwestern horizon and 5.6 degrees above Mars.


By 6 a.m. Vega leads the Summer Triangle above the northeastern horizon. The Sagittarian Teapot appears in the southeast. Huge Scorpius crawls higher in the south. Fiery Antares, the heart, beats in the Scorpion’s torso. Saturn chases Spica into the southwest. Fiery Arcturus sparkles overhead. The Big Dipper edges toward the northwest. Bright Capella twinkles in the northwest.


•  Event: FIU lecture series features Kevin Huffenberger, University of Miami, who will present a discussion on cosmology at 8 p.m. in the FIU Dept. of Physics CP-145 lecture hall, Modesto Maidique campus. The free FIU programs include refreshments followed by a star party. Park in the campus garage on the west side of Southwest 109th Avenue and Eighth Street and follow signs to CP-145.


A nearly full moon leads the Lion toward the zenith.

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

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