Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stars above the Coast astronomy column Feb. 14-20: the twin planets of Mardi Gras


PLANETS TO WATCH: If you have a clear view to the western horizon tonight through Wednesday, you should be able to see a conspicuous pairing of Venus and Jupiter, near the horizon in fading twilight.

Mars, still very bright, will be almost straight overhead about 11:15 p.m., while Saturn will be in the east at midnight. Mercury is lost to view for at present.

The best vision of the Venus-Jupiter pairing will be on Tuesday just as it gets dark. You'll need an open view to the west if you're downtown for the parades however.

THE MOON waxes from a tiny semi-circular at sunset tonight to nearly first quarter by the weekend. Evening stargazing should be usually good on clear nights.

THIS WEEK: If you're in the country and gone from light, you should have a good view of the Milky Way this week. About 8 p.m., you can outline it from southeast to northwest, and almost directly overhead.

Some of the brighter constellations in the galaxy's main trail comprise Canis Minor, Gemini, Auriga and Cassiopeia.

Under dark skies, a sweep of the Milky Way with binoculars is forever a striking experience.

DID YOU KNOW? Romantic sounding Venus is really a hostile place, with an acid atmosphere and temperatures of up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

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