Sky Lights ~ Pisces

February 18 - March 20, 2011

Jupiter and Mercury are our sunset planets. Look west at dusk. Jupiter is sinking toward the Sun; Mercury is rising above it. As the days unfold watch them move closer together and meet on Tuesday 3/15. 3/5-7 Dusk Map ~ 3/15 7:15pm Map ~ 3/16 Dusk Map Jupiter swiftly sinks out of sight the following week, while Mercury gives its best 2011 evening performance, reaching its greatest distance from the setting Sun 3/22.

Saturn rises in the east around 9:00pm in the beginning of Pisces and around 7:30 by its end. Its yellowish glow is eye-catching above (west of) bluish Spica. The planet at magnitude 0.4 shines a little brighter than this star. Use the Big Dipper to locate Saturn (see Arcturus below for details). The largest Full Moon of 2011 lies near Saturn 3/19. Full Moon Map/Text Saturn's rings are opening, revealing more and more of their northern face. The planet's ring tilt is 9 in March. Saturn brightens and grows bigger as it approaches Earth and its rings open to reflect more light. The planet reaches opposition and is at its best 4/3. Generate images of Saturn's ring tilt as seen from Earth with the Solar System Simulator.

Venus at magnitude -4.0 is breathtaking in the morning sky, however it is sinking toward the Sun and is seen only 2 hours before sunrise. 3/1 the Crescent Moon is elegant near Venus. 3/1 6:15am Map An encore performance occurs 4/1. Map/Text

Mars in exact conjunction with the Sun 2/4 is too close to our central luminary to be seen. Morning Mars won't be easily seen until mid-May, 30 minutes before sunrise.

The Pleiades star cluster can be seen high in the west in the early evening. Look for the bright red star, Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the Bull. Northwest of this star find the mini dipper-shaped sparkling Pleiades, the Bull's shoulder. The brighter red Betelgeuse, Orion's shoulder star, lies southeast of Aldebaran and the Pleiades. These two red stars and the cluster line up diagonally. Winter Stars The Pleiades set around 1:00am during Pisces.

Capella is the very bright star overhead and northeast of the Pleiades. It is the brightest star seen the most often. It lies in the constellation Auriga, our celestial Santa. Winter Stars

Orion The Hunter, the cosmic giant, lies directly overhead at 8:00pm. Navigating with Orion introduces you to the winter stars. Use his belt stars to locate Sirius and Aldebaran, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Notice the colors of these 4 stars. The three belt stars of Orion represent the Three Wise Men. Orion helps one find the Winter Triangle, the Great Winter Hexagon and the Valentine's Star! Orion fully sets by 2:15am during Pisces.

Sirius the brightest star in the heavens can be seen in the southeast at sunset. It travels across the southern sky and sets in the southwest about 1:30am during Pisces. Winter Stars

Arcturus, a bright golden star, rises around 9:00pm during Pisces. Use the handle of the Big Dipper to arc down to golden Arcturus, then spike down to blue-white Spica in the south! Helpful Image In 2011 yellowish Saturn, which is growing in size and brightness, lies above (west of) bluish Spica. A large triangle is formed by these 3 colorful celestial bodies. Binoculars make vivid their colors. Big Dipper Navigation

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