Week of February 11

Inside the Orthwein StarBay at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium

Inside the Orthwein StarBay at the James S. McDonell Planetarium.

This is the Saint Louis Science Center’s NIGHT SKY UPDATE for the week of Monday, February 11.  All times are given as local St. Louis time (Central Standard Time).  For definitions of terminology used in the night sky update, click the highlighted text.

Information updated weekly or as needed.

Join us for our next star party, Friday, March 1, 2013 held in association with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For details, see the information at the bottom of this page.

 

The Sun and the Moon

Sunrise is at 6:56 a.m. on Monday, February 11, and sunset is at 5:35 p.m. providing us with over 10 hours of daylight.  Even after sunset, the light from the Sun will still illuminate our sky for roughly 1.5 hours.  This period of time is called twilight which ends around 7:00 p.m. this week. 

Moonrise for Monday, February 11 is at 7:23 a.m. and moonset is at 7:30 p.m.  On Monday the Moon will be exhibiting a waxing crescent phase with approximately 3% of the lunar disk illuminated.  For the first few days this week you can use the thin crescent moon to help locate the planets Mercury and Mars.  On February 11, the Moon will be seen just 5 degrees above the two of planets. 

 

International Space Station (ISS) Observing

Visible passes of ISS over St. Louis for the next two weeks starting the week of Monday, February 11 are all evening passes.  For this two week period the best passes occur on the evenings of February 23 and 24.  For more detailed information regarding these and other passes click the red links in the table.

Catch ISS flying over St. Louis in the morning hours during the week of Monday, February 11.

Date

 

Mag

Starts

Max. Altitude

Ends

Time

Alt.

Az.

Time

Alt.

Az.

Time

Alt.

Az.

11 Feb

-0.8

19:26:22

10

WNW

19:28:33

16

NNW

19:28:51

16

NNW

12 Feb

-1.2

18:34:57

10

W

18:37:39

22

NNW

18:40:21

10

NNE

13 Feb

-0.5

19:23:11

10

NNW

19:24:12

11

NNW

19:24:37

11

N

14 Feb

-0.7

18:31:21

10

NW

18:33:10

14

NNW

18:34:59

10

NNE

16 Feb

-0.5

18:28:36

10

NNW

18:28:45

10

N

18:28:53

10

N

19 Feb

-0.8

19:09:37

10

N

19:10:53

12

NNE

19:10:53

12

NNE

20 Feb

-0.4

19:54:26

10

NNW

19:54:58

13

NNW

19:54:58

13

NNW

21 Feb

-1.4

19:03:52

10

NNW

19:06:15

18

NNE

19:06:19

18

NNE

22 Feb

-1.0

18:13:23

10

NNW

18:15:07

13

NNE

18:16:52

10

NE

22 Feb

-1.2

19:48:59

10

NW

19:50:30

24

NW

19:50:30

24

NW

23 Feb

-2.3

18:58:15

10

NW

19:01:19

32

NNE

19:01:59

29

ENE

24 Feb

-2.1

19:43:45

10

WNW

19:46:20

43

W

19:46:20

43

W

 

Magnitude (Mag): The Measure of brightness for a celestial object.  The lower the value is, the brighter the object will be.

Altitude (Alt):  The angle of a celestial object measured upwards from the observer’s horizon.

Azimuth (Az):  The direction of a celestial object, measured clockwise from an observer’s location with north being 0°, east being 90°, south being 180° and west being 270°.

For information about ISS flyovers and other visible satellites, visitwww.heavens-above.com

Detailed information regarding all unmanned exploration of our universe, missions past, present, and planned, can be found at Jet Propulsion Laboratories:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/

 

The Planets Visible Without A Telescope

Mercury

Mercury has started it first evening apparition of 2013.  On Monday, February 11, Mercury will be 9 degrees above the horizon.  Look for the thin waxing crescent moon which will be located only 5 degrees above the planet.  The highest altitude Mercury will attain during this apparition is 12 degrees which occurs on Saturday, February 16.  This point is called maximum eastern elongation.  Pointing a telescope at Mercury will reveal that you are only seeing a portion of the planet illuminated by the Sun.  On Monday the 11th, you will see approximately 70% disk illumination which drops to about 50 % at maximum eastern elongation.  The phased planets are one of the factors that helps prove Copernican Heliocentrism.

Jupiter

The planet Jupiter will be visible shortly after sunset and sets around 2:00 a.m.  Grab a pair of binoculars and see how many of the Galilean moons you can see.  Depending on when you look you should be able to see all four; Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.  As you watch them sketch their locations relative to Jupiter and you will be following in the footsteps of Galileo.    

Saturn

Look for the ringed planet shortly after it rises at 11:51 p.m.  We will see Saturn roughly 30 minutes earlier each week then we did the week before.  Currently Saturn is found in the constellation Libra just to the west of the bright stars Zubeneschamali and Zubenalgenubi.  Opposition for Saturn occurs on April 28, 2013.  As we approach this date Saturn will continue to brighten and be seen early each night.  Once opposition occurs Saturn will be visible shortly after sunset.

Uranus

Normally the 7th planet from the Sun will require dark skies and a telescope to see, however, right now that is not the case.  Uranus is shining with an apparent magnitude of 5.9 which makes it a naked eye object for those observing from dark locations.  Those without telescopes should take this opportunity to take a look at this elusive planet.  Uranus is located in the constellation Pisces and will be visible shortly after sunset. 

 

Constellation of the Month

Each month we will highlight one constellation and some of the objects that can be found within the boundaries of that constellation.  At the start of the month we will list only a few of these objects and each week we will add another to the list.  Some objects will be visible to the unaided eye and some may require a telescope.  Many of the objects listed will require a map of the sky to find or may require repeat observations to notice various properties.  Links to star charts and other information that will be useful in identifying the objects listed will be given at the end of each week’s section. 

The constellation of the month for February is Canis Major.  Also known as the Great Dog, Canis Major, he is one of the two hunting dogs seen alongside the great hunter Orion in the winter skies.  A more interesting story comes from ancient Egypt.  Ancient Egyptians associated the constellation with the goddess Isis, Hathor and the Jackal-headed god Anubis.  The Isis association is particularly interesting as her story can be associated with one of the single most important environmental events that influenced and dictated ancient Egyptian culture; the flooding of the Nile.  The story of Isis involves the murder of her husband and brother Osiris by their other brother Set.  Upon Osiris’s death, Isis used her powers to restore Osiris’s body bringing him back to life.  The flooding of the Nile was believed to be the tears of grief shed by Isis grieving for Osiris.  The time of year the Nile River floods is also the time that the brightest star in Canis Major known as Sirius becomes visible again.  Not only would this have been the marker for the return of Isis to the sky it also signaled the beginning of the flood season that would have been and still is extraordinarily important to those that live near the Nile.

To find Canis Major follow the famous belt stars of Orion to their left and this will take you to the bright star Sirius.  This is the brightest star in the night sky and also happens to be one of our closest neighbors in the galaxy.  Sirius lies approximately 8.6 light years away making it the 6th closest star to the Sun.  To the right of Sirius you will see Mirzam and below the three stars Wezen, Adhara and Aludra that from a small triangle.  These are the brightest stars that make up the constellation Sirius.  Canis Major will always be seen in the southern skies moving from southeast to southwest during the winter months.  This time of the year Canis Major marks its highest passage in the southern skies around 9:45 p.m. making it at its best at a reasonable time for most observers. 

Canis Majors location in the sky has it completely bathed in the concentration of the Milky Way galaxy (Egyptians saw this as the celestial representation of the Nile River).  Because of this location, Canis Major is peppered with little groupings of stars called open star clusters or galactic clusters.  Star clusters are a type of deep sky object that are great for the beginning observer and usually will only require a simple pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see.  Many in fact are bright enough that in dark skies they look like small nebulous patches of light scattered across the Milky Way’s glow.  This month and next month will be dedicated to observing these bright gems of the winter portion of the Milky Way.

The object of the month for February 4 is the best and brightest of the Canis Major clusters, M41.  This star cluster contains approximately 100 stars and lies at a distance of 2,300 light years.  It has a visual magnitude of 4.5 making it an easy target for binoculars. To find M41 look 4 degrees south of the bright star Sirius and you will easily spot the nebulous light source and a few of its brightest stars.  Several of the brightest stars are red giants stars.  Of particular interest is the bright red giant seen in the middle of the cluster which is roughly 700 times more luminous then our Sun.  

http://messier.seds.org/m/m041.html

http://heavens-above.com/constellation.aspx?lat=38.62722&lng=-90.19778&loc=Saint+Louis&alt=135&tz=CST  

The object of the month for February 11 is another open star cluster called Collinder 121.  This loosely bound cluster of approximately 20 stars that estimated to be 2,300 light years.  It has a combined visual magnitude of 2.6.  Sigma-1 CMa is the brightest component star in Cr121 shining at 3.6 magnitude it will have a distinct orange hue.  Through binoculars this cluster will look like a small knot of stars and through a telescope you should be able to start counting the brightest component stars.  To find Cr121 look roughly 5 degrees south of M41.  This cluster will not be as striking as some if its larger counter parts but it still provides observers with a striking view. 

http://spider.seds.org/ngc/ngcdss.cgi?obj=Collinder!121&r=06:54.2:00&d=-24:38:00&e=J2000&h=30&w=30&f=GIF&c=none

           

NASA Mission of the Month

Each month we will be celebrating a NASA mission of the month.  This month’s mission is Stardust.  Stardust was a comet hunter that approached comet Wild 2 capturing debris to return to Earth.  These comet samples were successfully returned to Earth in 2006.  After Stardust returned the samples it was sent to fly by Comet Temple 1 to monitor changes in the comet since another mission called Deep Impact studied it in 2006.  Stardust renamed NExT completed its flyby of Temple 1 in 2011.  To learn more about this spacecraft and current research involving its returned samples visit

http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html

 

James S. McDonnell Planetarium 50th Anniversary Logo50th Anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium.  There are a number of events planned for the year that will celebrate the 50th anniversary. 

We want YOU to be part of the Planetarium’s 50th Anniversary celebration!

We’re looking for photos, videos, or other memorabilia you may have of the Planetarium to include in our 50th anniversary exhibition. We’re also interested in your Planetarium stories and memories. Here’s how you can participate:

1) If you have a photo or a story to share, send it electronically to memories@slsc.org. If you have a video, please post it to You Tube and send us a link.

2) If you do not have a digital copy of the photo, bring it to us and we will scan it. You can also bring in any Planetarium memorabilia and/or tell us your story. We’ll have a Memory Station set up in the Planetarium Lobby on the following dates and times:

Monday, February 18 (President’s Day)

12 noon to 3pm

Friday, March 1 (First Friday: Jurassic Park)

6 to 9pm

3) If you are not able to come on these days to share your photos, videos, stories, etc., please e-mail us at memories@slsc.org or call 314.289.1413 and we will get in touch with you.

  

Our next Star Party will be held on Friday, March 1, 2013, from dusk until 10 p.m.
Weather permitting, the St. Louis Astronomical Society and the Science Center will set up a number of telescopes outdoors and be on-hand to answer your questions.  Regardless of the weather on February 1, join us indoors in our Planetarium Theater for “The Sky Tonight”.  Showtime is at 7 p.m.

This free, indoor star program will introduce you to the current night sky, the planets, and the seasonal constellations. Doors open 15 minutes before show time. Shows begins at 7 p.m. Sorry, no late admissions due to safety issues in the darkened theater.

At 9 pm we will be showing our Planetarium Show “Seeking New Earths”.  This special First Friday’s showing will be free of charge. 

The St. Louis Astronomical Society hosts the monthly Star Parties at the Science Center which are held on the first Friday of each month. Our Monthly Star Parties are open to the public and free of charge.  For more information about the St. Louis Astronomical Society visit their website at www.slasonline.org

 

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