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Saturday 6 February 2016  •   28 Rowan Moon 2016

Viewing the night sky in Rowan Moon 2016

10 January - 8 February 2016

Map of night sky at full moon: 24 January, 01:46 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Rowan Moon 2016

Venus is still a bright morning star, and during the month, it is joined in the morning sky by Mercury, which comes to 25.55°W of the sun on 7 February. Before then, Mercury passes half a degree north of the very faint Pluto on 30 January; the star Albaldah, Pi Sagittarii, is nearby. Mercury will be easy to see from the southern hemisphere for the last week of the lunar month, particularly on 6 February, when the old moon forms a triangle with Venus and Mercury. As seen from the northern hemisphere, the moon and planets will be low down in the SE before sunrise, but it worth looking out for Venus and Mercury on 6 February below the old crescent moon. Only if you have a very powerful telescope is it worth trying to see Pluto!

Saturn is further out from the sun in the morning sky, and Mars rises earlier than either, an hour or two after midnight. On 17 January, Mars moves from the constellation Virgo into Libra, gradually brightening as it moves closer to Earth. By 19 January, it is brighter than the red star Antares in Scorpius and by 23 January, it is brighter than Spica in Virgo, but still not as bright as Saturn. The moon is near Mars on 1 February and Saturn on 4 February.

Jupiter rises mid-evening, and grows ever brighter during the month in the night and morning sky. The waning gibbous moon is nearby on 27 January.

UPDATE: Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) was expected to brighten enough to be visible to the naked eye, but now looks unlikely to do so.

The month ahead: Ash Moon 2016

9 February - 8 March 2016

Map of night sky at full moon: 22 February, 18:20 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ash Moon 2016

Venus is a bright morning star and, at the start of the lunar month, Mercury should be visible between it and the sunrise. The best view is from Earth’s southern hemisphere. Venus and Mercury come to their closest on 13 February, before Mercury falls away towards the sunrise on its way to the far side of the sun. As seen from the southern hemisphere, it may just remain visible all month. By the end of the month, Venus is moving towards the far side of the sun, and is less bright. The very old crescent moon is nearby on 7 March.

Saturn rises in the early hours among the star of Ophiuchus. Mars rises soon after midnight and during the month brightens further in the morning sky in the constellation Libra. By 22 February it is brighter than Saturn. On 1 March, the moon is near Mars, and on 2 March, it forms a pleasing group with Saturn, Mars and the bright star Antares.

Jupiter comes to opposition on 8 March, when it is only 663.53 million km or 36.9 light minutes from Earth. In the month leading up to this, it rises sooner and sooner after sunset, and grows ever brighter each night. The just past full moon is nearby on 23 February.

On 13 February, the very faint Pluto (magnitude 14.3) passes five minutes of arc north of the reasonably bright star Albaldah or Pi Sagittarii (magnitude 2.87).

At dark moon, there is a total eclipse of the sun visible from on 9 March from Indonesia and the Pacific; a partial eclipse can be seen from SE Asia, China (exc N&W), Korea, Japan, Australia (exc SE) and Hawaii just as the sun is setting on 8 March.
The total eclipse comes to the west coast of southern Sumatra soon after sunrise, at 0721 (0021UT), in the north of Bengkulu province, and then reaches the city of Palembang at 0723 (0023 UT). It crosses southern Borneo, just north of Banjarmasin, before reaching Balikpapan on the east coast at 0837 (0037UT), and then Palu in Sulawesi at 0840 (0040 UT) and Ternate in Maluku (the Moluccas) at 0954 (0054 UT) before passing across the Pacific.

William Morris
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