This past week Red Mars was bright in my night sky. Like a lantern, hanging under Leo, but I had to look fast before the clouds moved in and covered my backyard nights! Next week is forecast with cloudy nights...again! As we close this month of February 2012, a reminder that it is Leap Year. The leap year was invented in 46 BC under Julius Caesar, whose astronomer Sosigenes added a day every four years (now our February 29) to make the average length of the calendar year 365.25 days, very close to the true value of 365.2422...days. Good but not perfect. In the 16th Century, Pope Gregory XIII ordered (on advice from his astronomers) leap years to be dropped in century years not divisible by 400, making for an average over 400 years of 365.2425 days, almost perfect, allowing the calendar to stay in close synchrony with the seasons.
The constellations of winter are still in my FOV. And I continue to follow the Planets Jupiter, Venus and Saturn on any Clear nights that might linger through the night Sky.
Our seasonal change in weather will bring us more clouds this next week. Rain is forecast for part of the week. Catching a star in my FOV will be tuff! But here is what’s up in my backyard as we move into March:
Sunday evening the crescent Moon pairs with Jupiter, and it's Venus's turn to be the spectator. The Beehive Cluster in Cancer is as easy and well-known binocular target high in the late-winter sky. Farther and fainter is another cluster in Cancer, M67, an interesting and not-hard binocular catch. See Gary Seronik's Binocular Highlight column and chart (and the all-sky constellation map for finding Cancer) in the March Sky & Telescope, page 45.
Monday, see the six or seven brightest night objects at once. The last few days of February and first few days of March offer a rare chance for people at mid-northern latitudes to see at least a half dozen of the night sky's brightest objects simultaneously, 30 to 60 minutes after sunset. In order of brightness these are the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Sirius, Mars, Mercury, and (for southerners) Canopus. See S&T’s article, with pictures.
Tuesday, the evening Moon shines left of the Pleiades.
The First-quarter Moon is Wednesday, (exact at 8:21 p.m. EST). The Moon shines near Aldebaran in Taurus.
News from the Net:
Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast – February 27-March 4, 2012
The Sky Is Falling, Scientists Report
Curiosity Rover Acting as Stunt Double for Humans
RoboScopes – Real Armchair Astronomy
Astrophoto: The Veil Nebula by Nick Howes
Rare Amateur Video of Challenger Disaster Surfaces
See Venus in Daylight This Weekend
Mercury Down Under
Incredible Solar Eclipse Images From Our Readers
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