The constellation Leo, also called the Lion, is one of the few constellations that actually looks like a lion. It can be found by drawing a line downward from the stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl. It is easily recognized by the backwards question mark forms the shape of the lion’s head. Besides its brightest star Regulus, the constellation is home to a number of other sights for amateur astronomers. Keen sighted observers may be able to glimpse a faint companion to the constellation’s second brightest star, Algieba. Under good skies, the companion can be seen with just your eyes while binoculars will easily show the pair. Denebola, the third brightest star, at the back of the lion, also has a companion visible with binoculars but a small telescope will show a third, much fainter companion between the two stars. Why not having a go and let us know if you can spot?
This week, the small planet Mercury is hard to see or to find. The planet is in the morning skies just at Sun rise at 6.40 am and in the constellation Capricornus. The planet Venus is low at the morning horizon at about 6.20 am in the constellation Capricornus. The red planet Mars is best seen from 1.10 am onwards, climbs up to 20° altitude at its highest and is in the constellation Libra. The giant planet Jupiter is best seen from 6.40 pm onwards, throughout the whole night. Jupiter is at its highest at 43° altitude and is in the constellation Leo. Saturn, the planet with the rings, is best seen from 2.40 am onwards in the constellation Ophiuchus. Saturn does not get higher in the sky then 16°. So look for good clear and open horizons to find the planets.
The zodiacal light is visible at about 7 pm. Zodiacal light is a triangle glow in the Western horizon, visible just after Sun set. Try to watch or make a picture. Just at midnight, look for the Gegenschein. It is a faint glowing patch of sky relatively good for observation at 45° altitude and above the Southern horizon. This will be in the constellation Leo.
Wednesday 24 February
The Moon is close to the star called Zavijah at about 8 pm. They are about 4 lunar diameters separated.
If you have a small telescope or a binocular, you can see some features on the disc or around the giant planet Jupiter. At 4.31 am the Great Red Spot is in transit on the giant planet.
Iridium flares are satellites moving in the sky and visible with the naked eye. Satellites move like a star in the night sky. But Iridium flares get sudden brighter and appear as a flare in the sky. At 4.42 am a flare appears in the North at an altitude of 19° in the constellation Perseus. Another flare, same brightness, is in the East North East at 5.51 am at an altitude of 14° in the constellation Pegasus.
Thursday 25 February
The Moon is close to the bright star Porrima at 9.20 pm. The limb separation is less than 4 lunar diameters. The altitude is only 6° so look later. The Moon phase is 91%. The Moon is also close to the star called g29 Virginis. The separation is about the same.
After midnight, at 0.22 am the Great Red Spot is in transit over the giant planet Jupiter.
A bright Iridium flare appears at 5.26 am in the North East at an altitude of 10° in the constellation Pegasus. Another flare appears at 5.34 am in the South at an altitude of 42° in the constellation Serpens Caput.
Friday 26 February
At 7.05 pm the bright star Spica is only 5° South of the Moon.
The Great Red Spot transits the planet Jupiter at 8.13 pm. Is will be in transit again at 6.09 am in the morning.
After midnight, at 3.28 am the Moon is in apogee. The distance is 253364 miles or 405383 kilometres.
Saturday 27 February
Get your telescope or binocular out. It is Jupiter observation time! At 9.57 pm the Jupiter Moon Ganymede begins its eclipse. The Great Red Spot will transit the giant planet at 2 am. At 2.02 am the Jupiter Moon Europa begins now its eclipse. The Jupiter Moon Ganymede reappears from the occultation at 2.08 am. At 4.05 am the Jupiter Moon Io shows its shadow over Jupiter's disc and begins its actual crossing at 4.19 am.
An Iridium flare appears at 4.55 am in the South West at an altitude of 41° in the constellation Virgo.
Close of the night with the Jupiter Moon Europa reappearance of the occultation at 5.14 am.
Sunday 28 February
The planet Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun. The planet and the Sun are only 47.5' separated and of course not visible. Distance to the Earth is 30.949 AU. One Astronomical Unit (AU) is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun.
At 7.49 pm an Iridium flare appears in the South South East at an altitude of 60° in the constellation Gemini.
The Great Red Spot is in transit on the Jupiter disc at 9.51 pm. The Jupiter Moon Io begins its eclipse at 1.17 am and it reappears from the occultation at 5.45 am
Monday 29 February
Special night to watch the giant planet Jupiter and its Jovian Moons. Get your telescope out or use a good binocular on a steady wall. At 8.32 pm the Jupiter Moon Europa begins it shadow and at 8.56 pm it begins its transit. At 10.33 pm the Jupiter Moon Io begins its shadow. So we have a multi shadow and Moon event. One Moon (Europa) and 2 shadows (from Io and Europa) are in front of Jupiter. At 10.45 pm the Jupiter Moon Io begins now its transit. Now we have 2 Moons (Io and Europa) and 2 shadows (from Io and Europa) in front of Jupiter. At 11.21 pm the shadow of Jupiter Moon Europa ends. Now we have still 2 Moons (Io and Europa) and 1 shadow (from Io) in front of Jupiter. At 11.23 pm the Jupiter Moon Europa ends its transit. The shadow of the Jupiter Moon Io ends at 0.49 am and at 0.59 am the transit of Jupiter Moon Io ends.
The Moon is close to the red planet Mars at 1.40 am. The limb separation is under 9 lunar diameters. Have a look later, when both are higher above the horizon. The Moon phase is 59%. It is a unique opportunity for early morning observers. An observation that only occurs once every 4 years. The waning gibbous Moon appears close to the planet Mars above the Southern horizon while Saturn shines toward the East. Come back tomorrow to see how the view has changed.
At 3.09 am the Jupiter Moon Callisto begins it shadow and at 3.38 am the Great Red Spot is in transit over the giant planet Jupiter. The actual transit of the Jupiter Moon Callisto begins at 5.26 am.
An Iridium flare appears at 5.19 am in the South at an altitude of 45° in the constellation Serpens Caput.
Tuesday 1 March
The Jupiter Moon Io begins its eclipse at 7.46 pm and at 10.22 pm it reappears from its occultation.
It is Last Quarter Moon at 11.10 pm. This is the 2nd Southernmost Last Quarter Moon of the year. The former more Southern Last Quarter Moon was on 13 March 2015. The next more Southern Last Quarter Moon is on 31 March 2016.
The Great Red Spot is in transit over the giant planet Jupiter at 11.29 pm.
An Iridium flare appears at 5.12 am in the South at an altitude of 46° in the constellation Serpens Caput.
Saturn, the planet with the rings, is close and only 2.5° or less than 5 lunar diameters South of the Moon at 6.20 am. The altitude is 16° and the Moon phase 47%. Look well before Sun rise! The Moon is then approaching Venus in the South East around the 7th next week.
Wednesday 2 March
The Moon is in maximum libration South at 6.44 pm. The South Pole of the Moon is tipped into the Earth's view. This is the 2nd Southernmost total libration of the year. The former more Southern total libration was on 2 December 2011. The next more Southern total libration is on 9 September 2016.
Jupiter and its Jovian Moons, the 4 brightest Moons of the giant planet, can be seen with a small telescope or with a steady held binocular. You can see some nice Moon movements and events. At 7.17 pm the Jupiter Moon Io ends its shadow over the Jupiter disc. At 7.21 pm the Great Red Spot is in transit on Jupiter. At 7.25 the Jupiter Moon Io ends its transit. The Great Red Spot transits again at 5.16 am in the morning.
It is just past Last Quarter Moon now. The Moon passed both Mars and its rival Antares, and now appears to the North of Saturn in the morning sky. Mars is also slowly catching up to the planet but the pair won’t be at their closest until the end of August. Keep watching the movements of the planets.
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