For the first time, astronomers have combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope to study the well-known supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A). This work has helped explain an unusual structure in the debris from the destroyed star called the “Green Monster,” because of its resemblance to the wall in the left field of Fenway Park. Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScl; IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScl/Milisavljevic et al., NASA/JPL/CalTech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Schmidt and K. Arcand.
Observe Bright Stars, Three Planets in February
BY JONATHAN TRUAX, ASTRONOMER, MUSKEGON COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S CARR-FLES PLANETARIUM
This month, become a sky watcher, and brave the cold clear nights of winter to enjoy some of the brightest stars and constellations of any season, and search for three bright planets in the evening or morning sky.
Looking high in the southwest right after sunset, sky watchers can locate the brilliant planet Jupiter. The waxing crescent moon is close to Jupiter on the evenings of February 14 and 15.
During February mornings, two planets are visible in the southeast just before sunrise. The brightest of the pair is Venus, being much brighter than a typical star. Look for Venus low in the southeast about 30 minutes before dawn, among the stars of eastern Sagittarius. Around the third week of February looking below or east of Venus, but very close, look for a fainter “star.” The “star” is the orange-red planet Mars. The waning crescent moon will be very near Venus early in the month on the mornings of the 6th through the 8th.
As darkness falls after sunset this month, the bright star Deneb is very low in the northwest. Looking in the northeast, locate the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. High in the north, locate the “W” formed by the stars of Cassiopeia. High overhead, locate the bright yellow star Capella of Auriga, the charioteer.
The winter constellation of Taurus can be seen high in the east, marked by the orange star Aldebaran. Look for the Pleiades star cluster, seen as a tiny “dipper” of stars, higher in the east.
Sky watchers can locate Orion by looking for three stars in a row, the famous “belt” of Orion. Use the “belt” stars pointing downward toward the southeast, to locate the bright blue-white star Sirius the brightest star in the Heavens. A giant ellipse can be formed by connecting the star Aldebaran, to Capella, and then moving east to Pollux and Castor of Gemini, then south to Procyon a bright star east of Orion, down to Sirius of Canis Major, then west to the blue star Rigel of Orion, and then back to Aldebaran. This super constellation or asterism is called the “Winter Ellipse.”
On the nights of February 16 and 17, look for the waxing gibbous moon to be near the stars of the Hyades cluster. This is the “V” shaped pattern of stars making up the face of Taurus.
The waxing gibbous moon will be very close to the twin stars Castor and Pollux on the nights of the 19th and 20th.
This month’s Full moon occurs on the night of the 23rd and will be in the constellation of Leo the Lion. Locate the bright star Regulus of Leo to the southwest of the moon that night.
Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience Carr-Fles Planetarium with state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.