Astronomical SIGHTS Coming to a SKY NEAR YOU!
CONJUNCTIONS OF PLANETS, THE MOON, LUNAR AND SOLAR ECLIPSES, ETC
Graphics c/o Starry Night Education www.starrynighteducation.com.
This page updated Feb 16 and includes events to end of April, 2017.
See the COMING EVENTS page for detailed information.
The CURRENT COMETS page has more details and finder charts for visible comets.
Sky Sights: February, March and April 2017:
Several planets are visible in the west after sunset in the first months of 2017. Mars is still a reddish dot above the SW horizon and will continue to be visible until late spring 2017 and Venus has made a spectacular appearance in the SW sky remaining visible as an Evening Star until March 2017.
Mars and Venus will be prominent in the S and SW sky all winter long. (See image on HOME page). Both are continuing to travel eastward and eventually meet up below the Circlet in Pisces but not before each makes a close pass to both Neptune and Uranus. The planetary appulse show finally ends in late spring 2017. A thorough explanation of the current Venus appearance can be found on Brian Ventrudo's Cosmic Pursuits website here: Venus viewing Guide 2016-2017
Jupiter is a morning planet now and is finally far enough from the Sun to appear in dark sky before dawn. You will see it rising before midnight in February and it reaches opposition in April when it will be in the sky all night long.
A summary of the entire 2017 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
ASTRONOMY EVENTS 2017
An astronomical calendar for 2017 (with diagrams of sky sights like those below) is available for download from Alan Dyer's website here: www.amazingsky.com (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page).
February - April 2017 Sky Events
Feb 10, Fri: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
This penumbral eclipse is very close to having the umbral shadow of Earth touch the Moon’s disk. Officially the magnitude is 0.988 and some umbral darkening should be visible. It has been noted that on other lunar eclipse occasions, the umbral shadow does become visible as a darkening before the official contact time. Photographs should show this easily. Time for the maximum effect (mid-eclipse) according the RASC Observer’s Handbook is 7:44 pm Feb 10. More info about this lunar eclipse and others is in the BAS Weblog.
Feb 11, Sat: Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková This periodic comet has returned after 5 years to break the comet drought! It may be visible briefly in late December above the SW horizon around magnitude 8 or so and then it rounds the Sun to appear as a morning comet in January and February. On Feb 11, 2017, it is closest to Earth and should be brightest perhaps up to magnitude 7, well within binocular range but don't wait to this weekend to start observing. it should be visible for several weeks, even into mid-March as shown in the finder chart below. Check VIS. COMETS page for more.
Feb 17, Fri: Venus at its Brightest!
Venus is its brightest tonight at -4.63 magnitude. The phase is shrinking but the apparent size of Venus is growing (40 arc-sec) and the two balance out to give a maximum brightness at this time. Venus is on the inside track of its orbit and Earth and Venus are getting closer. By the end of March it swings in front of the Sun (missing it by 10° -no transit!) and is a large thin crescent with only its “backside” visible from Earth. After then Venus becomes a Morning Star.
Lower part of diagram shows Galileo's drawings of the changing appearance of Venus over several months of time in the first decade of the seventeenth century. Dichotomy Jan 14 will look like the third diagram from left. Venus currently is approaching the Earth and will grow in apparent size but shrink in phase. Second diagram from left shows its appearance when it will be maximum brightness, around Feb 17.
Feb 26, Sun: Mars and Uranus closest
Uranus has been waiting patiently for its appulse to Mars and now that the Red Planet is finished with Venus and Neptune, finally it is the turn of the god of the Sea. With a separation of 34 min 7 sec of arc, for an hour or so around 7 pm on Feb 26, Mars and Uranus should be visible in the same low power eyepiece field. Even a pair of binoculars should show the pair. The colours should be interesting and more noticeable on Uranus which is a brighter planet at 5.8 magnitude or so.
Feb 26, Sun: Annular Solar Eclipse in S. hemisphere
The Moon is just a bit too small to cover the Sun entirely for this eclipse and a very narrow ring will be visible from places in the south of S. America, across the S. Atlantic Ocean and into Angola, Zambia and Congo in Africa at sunset. None of this eclipse is visible from N. America. See Mr. Eclipse (Fred Espenak) for more: Annular Eclipse Feb 26
Mar 1, Wed: Crescent Moon, Mars and Venus in west.
A nice grouping of a 3 day-old crescent Moon with Mars and Venus in the evening sky. Venus is still brilliant (magnitude -4.6) Mars much fainter at magnitude 1.5 and Uranus is a binocular planet at magnitude 5.9. A nice grouping for photos!
Mar 4, Sat: Aldebaran skims north edge of Moon
A grazing occultation of Aldebaran occurs between 11 pm and midnight late on March 4. The event lasts several minutes and time on onset depends where in Ontario along the track (see map) you are located. Teeswater is in the middle of the track and nearest to Owen Sound but the graze will be visible across N. America. A grazing occultation involves a star skimming the north or south edge of the Moon and passing behind mountains (where the star disappears) and reappearing in valleys. See the limb profile below to get an idea. Note that a small difference in location on the Earth will produce different events. If you are too far north by even a few hundred metres, you could get a miss! Observers south of the track below will get a single disappearance and reappearance or just a regular total occultation. Please read the article: Aldebaran Graze 1983 for a detailed explanation of grazes and the story of a successful past graze.
This graze on Mar 4 is described in detail on the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) member Brad Timmerson's website: Aldebaran Mar 4 where he explains the track map and limb profile.
Apr 1, Sat: Mercury at Greatest Elongation East (19°)
Mercury is an evening star in March and April and reaches its farthest point east of the Sun today. It is located almost straight up from the point where the Sun sets in the West and will be visible for a good hour or more after twilight is gone in evening skies. It is bright at magnitude 0 and should be easy to spot if you have a clear horizon towards the west. Mars and the crescent Moon are in the same part of the sky. Diagram below is for 8 pm when Mercury is still 5° above the horizon.
Mercury is farthest from Sun Apr 1.
Apr 7, Fri: Jupiter at Opposition
The Planet King of the solar system is at opposition on Apr 7 when it opposite the Sun and lined up with the Earth on the same side of the solar system. Planets at opposition then appear at best at local midnight and rise when the Sun sets and set when the Sun rises again in the east. At opposition, the planet is in the night sky from dusk to dawn and appears brightest and largest in our sky. Jupiter will be -2.5 magnitude and 44 arc-sec across. The only planet that gets bigger is Venus when it is closest to Earth, which coincidentally is occurring in February.
Apr 21, Fri: Mars near Pleiades and Aldebaran
Mars is closest to the Pleiades tonight at just under 4°, but it has been nearby (less than 5°) for several days. Aldebaran is to the east of Mars and the Hyades Cluster also adds some background sparkle to the scene. A nice photo opportunity! Look west after sunset for this grouping and note that the dwarf planet Ceres is also nearby shining at magnitude 8.32 -it may be visible in binoculars.
Apr 28, Fri: Moon joins Mars, Pleiades and Aldebaran
A crescent Moon joins the grouping in the western sky on Apr 27 (2-days old) and Apr 28 (3-days old). Mars is now over 6° from M45 and about 8° from Aldebaran. Mars viewing will be drawing to a close at the end of May as it sinks below the western horizon. Even in March and April it is setting in evening twilight and only visible for an hour or two after sunset.