Weekly Stargazing Tips

Provided by StarDate.org. Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii).

February 27: Mechanical Constellations

Three constellations visible tonight show a fascination with early scientific instruments. Sextans, Antlia, and Pyxis represent the sextant, air pump, and compass. Sextans is in the east-southeast in mid-evening, with Antlia and Pyxis lower in the southeast and south.

March 1: Vesta

Vesta, the second-largest member of the asteroid belt, is lining up opposite the Sun. It’s in view all night and is brightest for the year. It is just below naked-eye visibility. Through binoculars, it looks like a faint star near the back leg of Leo, the lion.

March 2: Mercury and Jupiter

The planets Mercury and Jupiter stand low in the east-southeast in the dawn twilight. Tomorrow, Mercury will stand close above brighter Jupiter. The planets will appear to almost touch on Friday, and Mercury will move away from Jupiter after that.

March 3: The Whirlpool

M51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy for its nearly perfect spiral arms, spins across the north tonight. It stands close to the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, which is in the northeast in early evening and wheels high overhead later on.

March 4: More Mercury and Jupiter

The planets Mercury and Jupiter will stand side by side at dawn tomorrow. Jupiter is the brighter of the two worlds. They will be slightly easier to see from more southerly latitudes. Saturn stands to their upper right.

March 5: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon reaches last quarter at 7:30 p.m. CST, so sunlight will illuminate half of the visible lunar hemisphere. The illuminated fraction will shrink over the coming week as the Moon moves toward “new,” which will begin a new cycle of phases.

March 6: Mystery Explosion

Vulpecula, the fox, is near the middle of the Summer Triangle, which is high in the eastern sky at dawn. One of its treasures is CK Vulpecula, a star that flared up 350 years ago. The outburst probably was caused by the collision and merger of two stars.