Sky at a Glance February 18 – 25

Photo of Constellations Orion and Taurus

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, February 18 – 25 ~by Curt Nason

Sometimes inspiration just doesn’t show up when I am trying to write. Rather than just copy and paste something from last winter I will relate some astronomical memories from my youth, when the stars were much closer and the snow was radioactive.

Orion and I became friends when I was about nine. I was reading astronomy books from the library at the time and constellation pictures from old star maps really captured my imagination. They remain imprinted, especially one of Orion threatening Taurus the Bull with his upraised club. Orion accompanied me on the mile-long walk home (yes, only about a mile, and uphill only near the end) from the outdoor rink, my overshoes squeaking and scrunching over the hard-packed snow of the sidewalk as I steered a hockey stick ahead of me. And I am sure he cheered each time I drilled a sponge ball past the invisible goalie tending the snowbank, leading the Leafs to yet another Stanley Cup. Perhaps it’s my fault they have faltered since I outgrew that.

The bedroom which I shared with two older brothers had a northwest-facing window, and on early winter evenings a bright star sparkled through the ice that formed on the glass inside. That must have been the star Vega. I recall attempting to melt the ice on another window with my thumb to catch sight of a lunar eclipse. I remember another lunar eclipse; of the setting Moon through the kitchen window before heading off to school. One winter, walking home from school in early twilight, Venus was in full bloom as the evening star. Occasionally the northern lights would dance, but only in black and white like our television. I never saw them in colour until much later in life.

Inspiration did come, from long ago.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:17 am and sunset will occur at 5:50 pm, giving 10 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (7:20 am and 5:56 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:05 am and set at 6:00 pm, giving 10 hours, 55 minutes of daylight (7:09 am and 6:06 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at third quarter on Saturday, rising at 1 am and setting at 11 am. Venus continues its brilliance in the early evening sky as it edges westward from orange Mars, setting half an hour sooner late in the week. Jupiter rises around 10 pm but is still well placed for morning observing. Saturn crosses the constellation border from Ophiuchus into Sagittarius this week. You still have a week to catch the dim pyramid of zodiacal light along the western ecliptic an hour after sunset. You will need a clear sky with no light pollution to see sunlight reflecting off interplanetary dust.

The Saint John Naturalists’ Club meeting has been weather-bombed to this Monday, February 20, at 7 pm at the NB Museum in Market Square. It includes a presentation on the comet / asteroid impact that eventually wiped out the dinosaurs and most other forms of life, and the search for the crater it left as a souvenir. All are welcome and free to attend.

Questions? You can contact Curt Nason here.

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