Skywatching This Week: February 25-March 3

Sun and Moon

In Chicago, the SUN sets this week between 5:37 pm and 5:44 pm Central Standard Time and rises between 6:31 am and 6:22 am Central Standard Time. The MOON is full on Monday and continues into its waning gibbous phase the rest of the week. On Monday, it rises at 5:50 pm Central Standard Time, rising later and later as the week progresses. On Thursday, the moon rises at around 9:15 pm, and on that night it sits extremely close to the bright star SPICA. The next night, Friday, the moon rises around 10:20 pm, and it sits next to the planet SATURN. Both these pairings are also visible in the southwest before sunrise.

Planets

JUPITER is visible in the evening in the southwest; it doesn’t set until after midnight. SATURN now rises before 11:00 pm; it is also easily seen in the southwest before sunrise.

Evening Commute

The constellation Orion can be seen in the South after sunset. It features the bright stars BETELGEUSE (the red-orange star on the top left) and RIGEL (the blue-white star on the lower right). You can use Orion (and it’s three-star “belt”) to help guide you to other features in the night sky.

Use Orion to guide you to other features of the night sky
Use Orion to guide you to other features of the night sky

Follow Orion’s belt diagonally upward and to the right to find the bright star ALDEBARAN and the planet JUPITER. Jupiter is almost overhead after sunset; other than the moon, it’s the brightest object in the sky.

Above Jupiter and Aldebaran (and nearly overhead–crane your neck) is the bright star CAPELLA.

Follow Orion’s belt diagonally downward and to the left to find the brightest star in the sky, SIRIUS. Only Jupiter and the moon are brighter objects in the night sky this week.

Look above and to the left of Sirius, and you will find the bright star PROCYON. Continue upward and you will find the bright star POLLUX.

Other Bright Stars

Pollux has a neighbor, the star CASTOR (drawn, but not labeled in the sketch above). Together, they are the two twins of the constellation Gemini. Sirius also has a neighbor that you should be able to find, the star MIRZAM (drawn but not labeled). Between Orion and Pollux, you may find the star ALHENA (drawn but not labeled). Above Orion’s “head” and to the left of Aldebaran and Jupiter is the star ALNATH (drawn but not labeled). Capella, which again is nearly overhead, has a neighbor to its left, the star MENKALINAN (drawn but not labeled).

Spring is approaching, and we are beginning to see a new set of stars come into view. The bright star REGULUS is visible in the east as soon as the sky darkens after sunset. A few hours after that (by 10:00 pm), the bright stars ARCTURUS and SPICA (which is next to the moon on February 28) rise in the east as well.

Also, if you look to the northeast, you should be able to see the Big Dipper. It has been low in the sky all winter, but it is starting to appear above buildings and trees. By late evening, you can see the dipper hanging almost vertically, the “bowl” pointing left and the “handle” pointing downward to the horizon. The arc of the handle points to the star ARCTURUS (once it rises above the horizon). This is where the phrase, “Follow the arc to Arcturus,” comes from.

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4 thoughts on “Skywatching This Week: February 25-March 3

  1. […] The constellation Orion can be seen in the South after sunset. It features the bright stars BETELGEUSE (the red-orange star on the top left) and RIGEL (the blue-white star on the lower right). You can use Orion (and it’s three-star “belt”) to help guide you to other features in the night sky: the planet JUPITER and the bright stars ALDEBARAN, CAPELLA, SIRIUS, PROCYON, and POLLUX. See last week’s Skywatching. […]

  2. […] The constellation Orion can be seen in the South after sunset. It features the bright stars BETELGEUSE (the red-orange star on the top left) and RIGEL (the blue-white star on the lower right). You can use Orion (and it’s three-star “belt”) to help guide you to other features in the night sky: the planet JUPITER and the bright stars ALDEBARAN, CAPELLA, SIRIUS, PROCYON, and POLLUX. See the February 25 Skywatching. […]

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