Some daily events in the changing sky for February 1 – 9.
Comet Holmes is moving away from Algol, dimming and enlarging ever more. With the evening sky moonless this week, keep trying for it with binoculars — and if you have a very dark sky, your unaided eyes. When will you last be able to detect it? Even as Holmes (probably) fades to invisibility, it will remain in the evening sky through April; chart.
Friday, February 1
To find your local sunrise time, make sure you've put your location into our online almanac (and make sure the Daylight Saving Time box is unchecked).
Saturday, February 2
Sunday, February 3
Monday, February 4
Tuesday, February 5
Wednesday, February 6
Thursday, February 7
Friday, February 8
Saturday, February 9
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly foldout map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of maps; the standard is Sky Atlas 2000.0) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the even more detailed Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the enchanting though increasingly dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury has disappeared into the Sun's glare.
Venus and Jupiter (magnitudes –3.9 and –1.9, in Sagittarius) are the two "Morning Stars" low in the southeast during dawn. The brighter one is Venus. After their February 1st conjunction, Jupiter starts climbing away from Venus day by day. On Saturday morning, Feb. 2nd, they're still just 1.1° or 1.2° apart, but by the 9th they widen to 8° apart.
Mars (about magnitude –0.4, in eastern Taurus) shines very high in the southeast to south during evening, high above Orion. The fairly bright star near it is Beta (β) Tauri, also known as El Nath, magnitude +1.6 and pale blue-white. In a telescope, Mars diminishes from 11.9 to 11.0 arcseconds in apparent diameter this week. See the telescopic observing guide and surface-feature map in the November Sky & Telescope, page 66, or the short version online.
Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Leo) rises in the east around 7 p.m. and is highest in the south after midnight. Fainter Regulus (magnitude +1.4) is 7° west of Saturn: to its upper right after they rise. Only a little dimmer than Regulus is Gamma (γ) Leonis (magnitude +2.1), located 8° to Regulus's north. The three make an eye-catching triangle.
Uranus and Neptune are lost in the glow of dusk.
Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in Serpens Cauda) is low in the southeast just before dawn.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's midnorthern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Standard Time (EST) equals Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.
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