This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, February 18, 2015. Here is what’s happening in the skies of southern California:
Brilliant white planet Venus and orange planet Mars are visible together in the west-southwest after sunset. Mars is above Venus. Over the week the separation between the planets shrinks from 4 to 2 degrees.
Planet Jupiter, in Cancer the Crab, is visible in the east at sunset and climbs to the south by 11:30 p.m. Jupiter then gradually moves to the western horizon by dawn. Jupiter’s famous oval storm, the Great Red Spot, will be well placed for telescopic observation early in the evening on Sunday February 15, and will face us most directly at 8:09 p.m., PST. Interesting eclipses and occultations involving pairs of Jupiter’s four large moons, visible through almost any telescope, are listed on our special webpage.
The moon rises in last quarter phase on Thursday morning at 12:46 a.m. It is waning crescent on following mornings through the 17th, when it rises at 5:21 a.m. The moon is new on the afternoon of the 18th.
The ringed planet, Saturn, rises in the southeast at about 1:15 a.m., and is best seen in the south-southeast at dawn. Saturn is 9 degrees above the bright orange star Antares of Scorpius the Scorpion, and slightly outshines the star. The moon appears near Saturn on Thursday and Friday mornings.
The innermost planet, Mercury, is about 10 degrees high in the east-southeast at 6:15 a.m., when the sky is still dark enough to find it. The slender moon appears 9 degrees to the upper right of Mercury on the 16th, and 7 degrees to the right and slightly below the planet on the 17th.
Observers with good viewing conditions and binoculars will want to find comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Recent reports indicate that the comet is about magnitude 5. It is located between Perseus the Hero and Cassiopeia the Queen. A finder chart is available courtesy Sky and Telescope.
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 from Tuesday through 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 on Saturday, February 28.
Follow the Sky Report on Twitter for updates of astronomy and space-related events.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com.