Friday, February 29, 2008

Starry Splendour over Prince Albert

- Hans Daehne -

The rainy summer weather is limiting the visibility of the bright summer constellations but the stars will be there forever while the rain is very necessary right now for the Karoo and all its inhabitants.

In March the Autumn constellations will become more prominent, especially the Lion in its supine position harbouring the beautiful Saturn "above" its belly. Then it will be the turn of Corvus, the Crow, Virgo and Libra.

While the Red Giants of Summer Betelgeuse and Aldebaran move towards the West they will be replaced by the red Arcturus that is just as striking in the north.

You can still try to find the equilateral triangle of red objects made up of Mars, Aldebaran and Betelgeuse at the beginning of the month, as well as the summer triangle of Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon i.e. the hunter and his two dogs but now all in the West.

Venus and Jupiter were very close together as brilliant early morning objects at the beginning of February which I hope you did not miss. Venus is now on its way towards the Sun from the West which means it will rise later and later, cross the Sun and become the evening star on the eastern side of the Sun in August, when it will set after the Sun and be visible from Gordon’s koppie.

Mars will remain an evening planet, dimming as it moves towards Gemini.

Jupiter rises after midnight and will remain close to the Teapot in Sagittarius for the rest of the year.

Saturn moves closer to Regulus in Leo and should really be observed through a telescope because at the moment it is seen with its rings edge-on which happens very seldom.

The Moon is new on the 8th and full on the 22nd.

On the 20th of March it is already Autumn Equinox again which means that the Sun will cross the equator into the northern hemisphere and our nights will become longer than our days, but the star-gazing time will also become longer!

Looking East and South will become a real pleasure again because the crosses and the Centaur will be higher above the Swartberg and display all their gems found in the Jewel Box, Omega Centauri, Alpha Centauri and around Eta Carina.

Keep the stars in your eyes!

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