Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, February 27th and 28th, 2017

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, February 27th and 28th.

The Sun sets at 5:42 PM; night falls at 7:16. Dawn breaks at
4:58 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:32.

The darkening sky reveals the Moon and three planets, all in Pisces. A very young Moon (one-day-old), appears bright, very thin and very low, only eight degrees above the western horizon. It migrates from Aquarius to Cetus on Tuesday, appears slightly fuller but much brighter, at minus 4th magnitude nearer to Venus. The Moon sets at 7:09 PM on Monday, 8:13 PM on Tuesday.

Venus is the brightest object in the sky, at minus 4.6 magnitude, and appears about 18 percent lit. It sets at 8:44 PM. First magnitude Mars glows red about 12 degrees to Venus’ left. In our telescopes, it is a tiny 4.6 arc-seconds in size, but about 95 percent illuminated. Mars sets at 9:23 PM.

Nightfall reveals sixth magnitude Uranus less than a degree away from Mars. It is also a tiny 3.4 arc-seconds in size, but its blue-green color aids in identification. Uranus sets at 9:18 PM.

Comet 2Encke is an early evening challenge. It inhabits Pisces with its planetary cousins, but is only seven degrees above the western horizon, shines at 5th magnitude and may be difficult to find with the Moon nearby. It is a frequent visitor to our skies, returning every 3.3 years. Encke sets at 7:57 PM.

Asteroid 4Vesta is a bit easier to find, within 2 degrees of the star Upsilon Geminorum. It also is tiny in in our telescopes and dimmer at seventh magnitude. It is best observed at 8:53 PM and sets at 4:43 AM. Comet 45P is dimmer yet, at 12th magnitude and is located between the Big Bear’s hind leg and Leo’s hip. All three require detailed sky charts found in various astronomical media.

Jupiter rises at 9:12 PM just above the bright star Spica in Virgo. It shines at minus 2.3 magnitude and is a large 42 arc-seconds in size. It is best observed at 2:47 AM and remains up the rest of the night.

Saturn, second in size to Jupiter, rises in Sagittarius at 2:32 AM, shines at 0.5 magnitude and is 16 arc-seconds in size. It is best observed before Dawn, when its ring system is prominent.

Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, established the Roman calendar. The first month was Martius, named for Mars – the god of war. Following months were: Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December. His successor, King Numa, added Januarius and Februarius; this completed a calendar of 12 months and 354 days. Julius Caesar made January the first month (after the god of beginnings). The Roman Senate named a month for him – July, and stole a day from February to make a 31-day month. Augustus, his successor, named a month for himself and borrowed another day from February to give August also a 31-day month, leaving February with 28.

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