Skywatch Line for Friday, February 9, through Sunday, February 11, 2024 written by Sam Salem

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, February 9, through Sunday, February 11, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 7:01am and sets at 5:18pm; Moon rises at 7:14am and sets at 4:58pm.

New Moon occurs at 6:59pm on Friday. The new Moon rises and sets with the Sun. This is the second new supermoon of 2024 and the second of five new supermoons in a row.

The Moon will reach perigee, its closest point in its elliptical orbit around Earth, on Saturday, when it’s 222,505 miles away.

Early on Saturday and Sunday evenings, the thin waxing crescent Moon will pass Saturn. Saturn, at magnitude +1.0 in the constellation of Aquarius, glimmers very low in the west-southwest in twilight. It sets barely after twilight’s end.

On Saturday and Sunday evenings, look for earthshine, a glow on the unlit side of the Moon. It’s reflected light from the Earth.

The days around Sunday mark the latest solar noon for this year, and for the entire globe, by the clock. However, solar noon isn’t a clock event, even though our clocks and calendars measure its continual shift throughout the year. Solar noon, or midday, refers to that passing instant when the Sun reaches its highest point for the day, midway between sunrise and sunset. At solar noon, the Sun is said to cross your meridian. The Sun can only be at one of three places in your sky at solar noon: at your zenith straight overhead, south of zenith, or north of zenith. The noonday Sun can only reach zenith at the tropics. From northern temperate latitudes, the noonday Sun is always south of zenith. At southern temperate latitudes, the noonday Sun is always north of zenith.

Venus, at magnitude –3.9, shines in the low southeast during dawn. It gets a little lower every morning.

Jupiter, at magnitude –2.3 in the constellation of Aries, is that bright white dot very high in the south-southwest at nightfall, and lower in the southwest later. It sets by midnight. In a telescope Jupiter has shrunk to only 39 arcseconds wide.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.7 in the constellation of Aries, remains lurking in the darkness 11° upper left of Jupiter during evening. In a telescope at high power Uranus is a tiny but distinctly no-stellar ball, 3.7 arcseconds in diameter. Locate and identify it using the finder charts.

Neptune, at magnitude 7.9, is low in the west-southwest right after dark

Check in on the 5th-magnitude open cluster M41, just 4° south of Sirius using binoculars. observers often. Then look the other way from Sirius for 6th-magnitude M50. It’s 10° north-northeast from Sirius, dimmer, smaller and more subtle than M41.

Find it by sweeping first to Omicron Canis Majoris, the 4th-magnitude pointy nose of the Big Dog’s stick figure, then on again nearly as far in the same direction. M50 is the smaller and fainter of the two. Both clusters are at nearly the same distances from us, 2,500 light-years for M41 and 2,900 for M50.