The best time to see the planet Saturn in 2014 will be in May, at which time the ringed planet will be at its brightest and out all night long! But you don’t have to wait until then to view Saturn, which is the sixth planet outward from the sun and the farthest world that’s easily visible to the unaided eye. Tips and charts inside.
We’re hearing from many who are seeing the zodiacal light in the evening now. Maybe you’ve seen it in the sky and not realized it. You might have glimpsed it while driving on a highway or country road at this time of year. You catch sight of what you think is the lingering evening twilight, or the light of a nearby town, just over the horizon. Instead, what you’re seeing is the zodiacal light. It looks like a hazy pyramid of light extending up from the western horizon, after evening twilight ends.
Our sky chart shows Cassiopeia the Queen in the northwest in the hours after sunset. At nightfall, this constellation has the shape of the letter M, and you might imagine a celestial Queen reclining on her starry throne. At other times, as in the wee hours after midnight tonight, Cassiopeia appears more in the shape of a W.
Today’s spectacular conjunction of the moon and Venus is now past, but you can still see Venus near the moon on Thursday morning, February 27. Look east before dawn. The bright object near the moon on Thursday morning is the planet Mercury. As dawn breaks, Mercury will disappear, but Venus and the moon will be visible for some time in the brightening sky.
From most places around the world, people will see the moon and the brightest planet Venus closest together for the month before sunrise on February 26. These two brilliant beauties will climb over the eastern horizon in the predawn darkness. They’ll continue to light up the morning twilight until after all stars have been washed from the sky. Sharp-sighted people might even see the moon and Venus after sunrise.
The most brilliant celestial objects of nighttime – the waning crescent moon and planet Venus – grace the predawn and dawn hours on February 25. They’ll be close together the next morning, too. These worlds are so wondrously bright and beautiful that you can easily see them in the glare of morning twilight – or possibly, even after sunrise. Let yourself be entranced by the beauty of the early morning on February 25 and 26!
Castor is one of two bright stars in the constellation Gemini the Twins. The other bright star is called Pollux, and these two visible stars are considered “twins” in skylore.
Castor may appear as a single star, but it’s actually a famous multiple star system, containing three pairs of binary stars all revolving in a complex way around a common center of mass. In other words, the single bright light we see as Castor is really six stars in one.
Follow the links inside to learn more about Castor, one of Gemini’s two bright stars.
A well-known trick for finding Polaris, the legendary North Star, is that the two outermost stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper point to it. Those stars are Dubhe and Merak. They are well known among amateur astronomers as The Pointers.
The moon shines in the vicinity of a bright star, and points out three morning planets in the early morning hours on February 23. If you’re not one to wake up early, you can at least enjoy the evening planet, Jupiter.
The ruddy star near the waning moon tomorrow is none other than Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The golden point of light to the west of the moon is the ringed planet Saturn, though you’ll need a telescope to see this planet’s glorious rings. To the unaided eye, Saturn looks like a golden star.
The illuminated and dark sides of the waning moon help you to get your bearings for tomorrow morning’s planet hunt. The lit side points east, or in the direction of sunrise. Venus, the brightest of the planets, lies to the east of the moon in the predawn and dawn hours on February 23.
Our featured sky chart today shows the moon, the planet Saturn and star Antares as they appear from North America before dawn on February 22, 2014. As seen from the world’s Eastern Hemisphere – Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand – the moon will appear farther away from Antares and closer to Saturn on the morning of February 22.