Skywatch Line for Friday, February 2, through Sunday, February 4, 2024 written by Sam Salem

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, February 2, through Sunday, February 4, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 7:09am and sets at 5:09pm; Moon rises at 12:09am and sets at 10:28am.

Last quarter Moon occurs at 5:18pm on Friday. The Moon rises in the east-southeast around 1am Saturday morning. It sits below Spica, and it’s three times as far to the lower right of Arcturus.

On Friday and Saturday mornings, the waning crescent Moon will float by Zubenelgenubi. Zubenelgenubi means “Southern Claw” in Arabic. People used to consider this star to be part of Scorpius the Scorpion. Today, it’s part of the constellation Libra the Scales.

On Sunday, the waning crescent Moon will be near the Crown of Scorpius and lie close to the bright star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

Venus, magnitude –4.0, shines in the low southeast during dawn, lower every week.

Jupiter, magnitude –2.4 in Aries, is that bright white dot very high in the south-southwest at nightfall, lower in the southwest later. It sets around midnight. In a telescope Jupiter has shrunk to only 40 or 39 arcseconds wide.

Once the night is fully dark, notice the curved line that Jupiter makes with Alpha Arietis, the brightest star in the constellation of Aries, and Alpha Trianguli, in the constellation of Triangulum, to the upper right of it. That line was nearly straight at the beginning of the year when Jupiter was at its stationary point. Watch the line grow ever more bent as Jupiter continues eastward against the stars through the rest of the winter.

Saturn, magnitude +1.0 in Aquarius, glimmers low in the west-southwest in twilight. It sets soon after dark.

Sirius the Dog Star blazes well up in the southeast by midevening. It’s the brightest star of Canis Major. In a dark sky with lots of stars visible, the constellation’s points can be connected to make a convincing dog seen in profile. Sirius is on his chest, to the right or lower right of his faint triangular head. But through the light pollution where most of us live, only his five brightest stars are easily visible. These form the Meat Cleaver. Sirius is the cleaver’s top back corner, its blade faces right, and its short handle is down below pointing lower left.