This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the period ending Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
Bright planet Jupiter is high in the southeastern sky during evening twilight. Jupiter is located in Taurus the Bull, between the Pleiades star cluster and the bright orange star Aldebaran. Binoculars will show up to four small objects clustered around Jupiter: the planet’s largest moons, which re-arrange themselves daily as they orbit the planet. Six or seven stars of the Pleiades are visible to the unaided eye. Binoculars can reveal dozens more. Binoculars will also let you see a loose star grouping around Aldebaran. The brightest of these stars form the V shaped face of the Bull, the Hyades. Most of these stars are actually members of a star cluster beyond Aldebaran. Jupiter and the stars of Taurus set in the west-northwest at about 2:30 a.m.
The planet closest to the sun, Mercury, is 5 degrees above the west-southwest horizon 30 minutes after sunset starting on Sunday evening, February 3rd. For reference, remember that your clenched fist held at arm’s length appears about 10 degrees high. Binoculars will help you to spot the planet, which should look like a star against the twilight glow of the sky.
Moonrise happens 54 minutes later from night to night, advancing in time from 9:11 p.m. on January 30th to 3:29 a.m. on February 6th. Its waning phase changes from gibbous to last quarter on Sunday morning, February 3. On following mornings it appears crescent through the 6th.
Planet Saturn, in Libra the Scales, is 30 degrees above the southeast horizon–high enough for a clear view through a telescope, starting at 3:00 a.m. By dawn, the golden planet shines in the south, about midway between the horizon and the zenith. A telescope is needed to see the planet’s spectacular rings. The moon appears below Saturn on the 3rd.
The week’s best passage of the International Space Station through the skies of Los Angeles occurs on the morning of Thursday, January 31st. The ISS will emerge from earth’s shadow, out of the constellation Draco the Dragon, while 55 degrees high in the north-northeast at 5:10 a.m., and will remain visible for about 4 minutes as it descends to the south-southeast horizon. For information about other satellites or observing locations, enter your location on the Heavens-Above website.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night, are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes Wednesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star Party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place between 2:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 16th.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.