Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday February 5th, and 6th, 2024 written by Joe Slomka

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday February 5th, and 6th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 5:13 PM; night falls at 6:17. Dawn begins at 5:29 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 7:05.

Monday’s 24-day-old Moon rises at 5:46 AM in Ophiuchus, 15° high at 6 AM in the Southeast, 31 arc-seconds in size, 25% illuminated and sets at 2:14 PM. Tuesday’s Moon rises at 4:45 AM, 8° high in Sagittarius at 6 AM, 32 arc-seconds and sets at 1:05 PM.

Four evening planets rise during daytime. Saturn is the first visible; however, it lies 20° from the Sun, closer daily and will be soon gone. In southwestern Aquarius, it shines with 1st magnitude, 15 arc-seconds in size, 9° high and sets at 6:49 PM. Southwestern Neptune, 19° behind Saturn, lies in Pisces, 39° from the Sun, 8th magnitude, 2 arc-seconds, 26° at 7 PM and sets at 8:28 PM; it also sinks into the Twilight.

Southern Jupiter shares Aries with Uranus. Jupiter has become the most prominent object in the sky, sparkling with minus 2nd magnitude, 39 arc-seconds, 58° high and sets at 12:07 AM. Monday’s telescopic observers can witness Jovian moon Io being occulted (hidden) at 7:54 PM; Europa also occulted at 10:08 PM and emerging at 12:33 AM on Tuesday. Tuesday also presents the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) at 3:07 AM and again at 10:58 PM. Uranus trails Jupiter by 11°, twinkles with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds, highest at 5:59 PM, 64° at 7 PM and sets at 1:08 AM.

Dawn planets set during daytime. Venus is the brightest; in Sagittarius, is 30° from the Sun and closing in, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, 12 arc-seconds, rises at 5:32 AM, 12° high in the Southeast at 7 AM and 87% illuminated. Mars, 7° East of Venus, shining with 1st magnitude, 4 arc-seconds, 8° high at 7 AM and rises at 6:07 AM. On Wednesday, Mars, Venus and the 26-day-old Moon are close to each other about 40 minutes before Sunrise. Observers are advised to find an unobscured view and use binoculars or telescopes to catch the event before the Sun overpowers the scene. Difficult Mercury, in Capricornus, lies 15° from Sun, zero magnitude, 5 ac-seconds and sets at 6:31.

If you live away from sources of light pollution, the next two weeks are special. The inner Solar System is full of dust. Particles vary from pebbles to smoke. When the position of Sun and ecliptic are right, a faint glow may appear in the East, just after sunset. This phenomenon is called Zodiacal Light. It is best seen about a half hour after twilight ends, or before dawn begins. The scattering of sunlight off of dust particles, which are positioned between Sun and Earth, cause it. Moonlight, atmospheric pollution or haze will erase the effect. If you are lucky, you will see a pillar of light rising from the horizon in the direction of the Sun. A similar effect called Gegenschein, is located in part of the sky opposite the Sun. This faint pillar of light is best seen at midnight during the depths of winter.

Clear Skies Joe Slomka