The next General Public STAR WATCH meeting will be at St Pedro’s Castle on Thursday Feb 11th – starting at 7 PM. Usual rules apply with regard to the weather- if more than 50 percent cloudy then the meeting will be cancelled – you may phone me (not text) – 925 7657 at around 6:45 PM for an update if there is any uncertainty. Non-members are asked to park outside and walk in.
Other Events coming up soon
Feb 27th Red Sky at Night (4th year on Astronomical Avenue)
March 10th Meeting at Pedro’s with Savannah Primary School.
March/April Campaign to start Astronomy Societies in Schools and Clubs in Sister Islands
Volunteers will be needed to help manage both the Red Sky at Night evening (free tickets will be provided) and also for the evening for Savannah Primary School. Members have precedence
The Morning Skies in February are very much the realm of the planets. Currently all 5 planets visible with the naked eye can be seen. Although as one smart alec has pointed out – the Earth is also visible too. The diagram shown below is a reasonable example of what can be seen – although in Cayman the line of the planets is much higher in the sky – almost overhead. . Notice Mercury and Venus- as the month progresses Venus will get closer to Mercury – but the best date to catch them is probably Feb 6th when a slim crescent moon will sit between the two planets.
It’s going to be interesting to watch the motion of the planets across the sky this year. Firstly we have all the visible planets in one place! The last time this happened was in 2005 over 10 years ago. We are indeed lucky with Mercury as it’s normally very elusive but it will be visible for quite a while slipping back into the dawn at the end of March. Mercury will reappear as an evening object in April – and again does another “dance or loop” in the sky before returning sunwards in May when on May the 8th the planet orbit is so aligned we will be able to see the disk of the planet crossing the Sun, - a type of eclipse called a Transit. More in this in later newsletters.
Venus meanwhile in February does not – at our latitudes -completely go away- it remains low in the morning sky – simply put it is at its furthest from the Earth and appears to crawl in its path around the Sun. Simply put its approaching its “Superior Conjunction”. See the diagram below. In June Venus eventually appears in the evening. By the end of the year Venus will be a brilliant Evening Sta
As we turn our gaze towards the outer planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, all will be visible in our Summer evening skies, special mention to be mad of Mars as it will be the closest to the Earth (at its Opposition) since 2014 . It will be even bigger and brighter in 2018!
Evening Skies February
Now we turn to the evening sky. Sunset on the 11th is around 6:20 PM – the chart below is for 8:30PM and is taken from the excellent site Heavens-Above.com. The time shown is later than normally used in the newsletter but I wanted to show that at long last Jupiter is coming back to the evening skies. Certainly I am hoping we will catch it at the Red Sky at Night Event.
Heavens-Above.com is a great site for satellite predictions too- there will be some crossings of the International Space Station towards the end of the Month (around the 20th) which I will post up on the Facebook page.
Finally I have always been intrigued at just how far we can see into the “Southern Skies”- The Southern Cross for example has been visible recently in our Morning Skies – and in April/May/June we get a great viewing of it again in the Evening. One Southern Sky object that has eluded me however is just a bit too close to the horizon for us to see clearly. This is the object LMC, the Large Magellanic Cloud. I know our astronomical friends in Trinidad can see this Ok but here… a bit of a challenge. The LMC is a familiar sight to Southern Hemisphere observers- and looks like a small part of the Milky Way that’s slipped away. It is in fact a satellite galaxy to our own Milky Way.
In theory we should just see it – as the center of the object is 20 degrees south, on our chart (above) it lies just south of Dorado (The dolphin) The line to draw is from Sirius and pass to the right side of Canopus. Canopus on the chart is the bright un named star in the South. The other rule is that when Orion is at its highest in the sky – so is the LMC
Let’s Hope for Clear Skies Everyone!! Don’t forget our Website and Facebook page too.
Chris Cooke 925 7657