This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, February 29, 2012. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
Venus and Jupiter, the brightest and second-brightest planets are striking and high in the western sky after sunset. They continue to draw closer together and their separation drops from 19 to 12 degrees this week. The moon appears 3 degrees above Venus on Saturday the 25th.
Planet Mercury can be found a few degrees above the western horizon at about 6:10 p.m., or 30 minutes after sunset. Binoculars may help you to spot the planet against the twilight.
Planet Mars appears about as bright and large as it will get this year. In Leo the Lion, orange hued Mars can be seen in the east at 7:30 p.m. At just under 14 arcseconds across, the planet is best examined between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., when it is highest in the sky. Los Angeles Observers will see the north polar cap and the Tharsis, Copartes, and Mare Acidalium amidst other features.
Planet Saturn, not far from Virgo the Maiden’s brightest star, Spica, is visible in the southeast before midnight and is high in the south at dawn. Its rings are tilted 15 degrees in our direction and are spectacular in almost any telescope.
Seventh magnitude-binocular-comet Garradd is now a circumpolar object from much of the northern hemisphere, meaning that it can be observed all night long. It is in Draco the Dragon, and is highest in the north just before dawn. Finder charts can be generated on www.heavens-above.com.
Free public viewing of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets and other celestial objects at night, is available in clear weather, Wednesday through Sunday, through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes before 9:45 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Sidewalk Astronomers is scheduled for Saturday, February 25.
The Sky Report is updated every Wednesday. It may be read and heard on our website, and is found by following the Sky Information links. From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.