Tag: Pleiades

2019, April 1-30: Mars Moves Through Taurus

This chart shows the motion of Mars against the starry background of Taurus during April 2019.

In the evening sky, Mars is moving through Taurus’ brighter star field. Follow the planet through a binocular as it passes between the Pleiades star cluster and the Hyades star cluster. The “V” of Taurus is nearly vertical this time of year. The stars of winter are making their final stand in the evening sky for the year, capped by an arc of stars – Procyon, Pollux, Castor and Capella.  The Gemini Twins stand high in the western sky with their arms around the other twin’s shoulders. Sirius is about 25° up in the southwest.  Watch it slowly begin to disappear into bright twilight.  Its last appearance in the evening sky occurs in mid-May.  The sun is in the sky for nearly 12.75 hours and the sky is dark, from the end of evening twilight to the beginning of morning twilight, for slightly over 8 hours.

In the notes that follow, the brightness of celestial objects is noted.  The lower the number the brighter the object.  The brightest stars have magnitudes that are rated 1 on the magnitude scale.  These can be seen from many bright areas.  As you move into suburban areas, magnitudes 2 and 3 are visible.  Fourth and fifth magnitude stars are visible from more rural areas.

Additionally, some stars have proper names as well as Greek letter designations, and sometimes numerical designations.

To determine the end of twilight in your area, find the local time in your area.  Add 100 minutes to your local sunset time.  By that time the sky is dark enough to find the constellations and Mars.

Look in the west about one-third of the way up in the sky, from horizon to overhead.  You’ll find Mars there along with the celestial backdrop of Taurus the Bull.

  • April 1: At the end of evening twilight, Mars, about 28° up in the west, is 3.3° to the left of the Alcyone (η Tau, m = 2.8), the brightest of the Pleiades, and 2.6° below 37 Tauri (37 Tau, m = 4.4). For the next several evenings we have chosen stars in Taurus to reference with Mars.
  • April 2: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is over 27° up in the west.  It is 3.5° to the upper left of Alcyone and 1.9° to the lower right of 37 Tauri.
  • April 3:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 1.2° below 37 Tauri.
  • April 4:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is just below a virtual line that extends from Alcyone to Aldebaran (α Tau, m = 0.8).  The planet is 3.5° to the lower right of Omega Tauri (ω Tau, m = 4.9) and 0.6° below 37 Tauri.
  • April 5: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 0.3° to the left of 37 Tauri, above a virtual line from Alcyone to Aldebaran.
  • April 6:  After the end of evening twilight, Mars is 0.8° to the upper left of 37 Tauri and 2.5° to the lower right of Omega Tauri.
  • April 7: At the end of twilight, find Mars, 2.1° to the right of Omega Tauri.
  • April 8:  At the end of evening twilight, the moon (3.7 days old, 14% illuminated) is about 6° to the lower left of Mars. The Red Planet is 4.5° to the lower right of Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau, m = 3.5), which compliments Aldebaran’s position in the head of Taurus at the top right point of the “V.”
  • April 9: . At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 1.7° to the upper right of Omega Tauri and 4.2° to the right of Epsilon Tauri, just beneath a virtual line that extends from Aldebaran to Epsilon and to the right. The moon (4.7d, 22%) is not far away, 5.3° above Aldebaran.
  • April 10: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (5.7d, 31%), 41° up in the west, is 3.5° to the upper left of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau, m = 3.0), the southern horn of Taurus.  Mars, 24° up in the west, is 3.8° to the upper right of Epsilon Tauri, just above the imaginary line at that extends from Aldebaran through Epsilon.
  • April 11: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (6.7d, 42%), over 50° up in the south-southwest, is nearly in the middle of Gemini, about 6° to the upper right of Gamma Geminorum (γ Gem, m = 1.9). Mars is 0.9° to the lower right of Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau, m = 4.2).
  • April 12: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (7.7d, 53%), nearly 60° up in the southwest, is over 7° to the lower left of Pollux (β Gem, m = 1.2). Mars is 0.3° to the upper right of Kappa1 Tauri (κ1 Tau, m=4.2) and 0.3° below Upsilon Tauri.  It also passes 3.5° to the upper right of Epsilon Tauri.
  • April 13: At the end of evening twilight Mars is 0.4° to the upper left of Upsilon Tauri.
  • April 15: Mars is nearly midway between Upsilon Tauri and Tau Tauri (τ Tau, m = 4.3). Through a telescope, Mars is only 4” across, much smaller in apparent size than when it appeared at opposition last summer.
  • April 16: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (11.7d, 92%), nearly 50° up in the southeast, is over 12° to the lower right of Denebola.  Mars (m = 1.6) is 1.3° to the right of Tau Tauri.
  • April 17:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars continues its traverse of Taurus.  This evening it is 0.7° to the lower right of Tau Tauri.
  • April 18: At the end of twilight, Mars is 0.3° to the upper right of Tau Tauri.
  • April 19:  At the end of evening twilight Mars, marching through Taurus, is 0.6° above Tau Tauri.
  • April 20: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 1.3° above Tau Tauri and 4° to the lower right of Iota Tauri (m=4.6), next star to mark Mars’ course through the starry background.
  • April 21:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2° to the upper left of Tau Tauri and 3.5° to the lower right of Iota Tauri.
  • April 22:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 3° to the lower right of Iota Tauri.
  • April 23:At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.7° to the right of Iota Tauri and nearly 10° from Zeta Tauri, the southern horn of Taurus.
  • April 24: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.3° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and over 9° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.  If you have a good western horizon and you can still view the “V” of Taurus, although it is low in the west-northwest, notice that Mars is above it for the next few evenings.  This evening Mars is over 9° to the upper right of Aldebaran.
  • April 25: At the end of evening twilight, Mars, nearly 24° up in the west-northwest, is 2.2° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and over 8° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 26: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.3° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and 8° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 27:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.6° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and over 7° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 28: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.7° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and about 7° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 29:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 3.4° above Iota Tauri and over 6° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 30:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars, nearly 16° up in the west-northwest, is 3.9° above Iota Tauri and about 6° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.

 

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2019, March 11: Moon, Mars, and Winter Stars

This evening, the crescent moon (overexposed on the image, is about 7.5 degrees to the left of Mars.  Tomorrow evening the moon is between the Pleiades and the Hyades star clusters.  Take a look with a binocular.

The star clusters are considered part of Taurus.  The Pleiades resemble a tiny dipper.  Through a binocular you can see a dozen or so stars.  The Hyades are to the left of the Pleiades.  They make a “check mark” shape.  When Aldebaran is included, the patter resembles a letter “V,” the face of the Bull.  Aldebaran could be considered its fiery red eye.  Zeta Tauri and Elnath are considered to be the bull’s horns.

Watch Mars move closer to Pleiades as the month progresses.  It passes them late in the month.

In focus, the moon is 5.4 days old and displaying a crescent phase that is 25% illuminated.

The flagship of winter constellations is Orion, with its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, appears in the southern sky during early evening hours.  With a binocular look below the three stars, Orion’s belt, toward Rigel.  The region has a hazy cloud, the Orion Nebula, where stars are forming.  Betelgeuse, along with Sirius, the Dog Star, and Procyon, the Little Dog Star, make an equilateral triangle known as the Winter Triangle.  Take a look at them through your binocular and you can see some interesting contrasts of star color.

2019, March 25-31: Mars Passes the Pleiades

Late in March, step outside about 90 minutes after sunset.  (Check the sunset time for your location.)  Orion is less than halfway up in the southwest.  Taurus, with its star clusters — the Pleiades and Hyades — are farther to the right (north) of Orion.  With the yellow-orange star Aldebaran, the stars of the Hyades make a letter “V.”  The Pleiades, a cluster of bluish stars that resemble a miniature dipper, are farther to the right.  This tiny cluster may have initially caught your attention out of the corner of your eye, as you first looked up.  Take a look with binoculars, as a telescope has too much magnification to take in all the Pleiades or Hyades.  In the Pleiades you may see a few dozen stars though your binoc.  The stars are vivid blue, indicating blazing high temperatures.

Mars, an orangish looking bright “star,” is to the lower left of the Pleiades cluster.  Each night Mars moves closer to the cluster, and passes closest on March 30.  Take a look each night to see Mars’ movement through space compared to the starry background.

We are referencing the cluster’s bright star, Alcyone, in the measurements.

One degree is the twice the size the full moon appears in the sky.

Watch Mars move closer and then past the cluster as the month closes.

  • March 25: Mars is 4.9° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 26: Mars is 4.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 27: Mars is 3.9° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 28: Mars is 3.6° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 29: Mars is 3.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 30: Mars passes 3.1° to the lower left of Alcyone and the Pleiades, a beautiful view through a binocular.
  • March 31: Mars is 3.2° to the lower left of Alcyone. Tonight Mars is nearly the same distance as last night and slightly higher in the sky.

2019, March 12: Moon in Taurus

 

  • On March 12, at the end of evening twilight, look for the moon (6.4 days old, 35% illuminated) 5.5° to the lower right of Aldebaran (α Tau, m = 0.8), almost between the Hyades and the Pleiades. While the entire Hyades cluster may not fit into a binocular field with the lunar crescent, take a look with the lowest optical power in your inventory to see the nice view. At the same time Mars is 36° up in the west, about 12° below the Pleiades.

2018, April: Watch Venus Move Through Taurus

During late April, brilliant Venus moves through the stellar background of Taurus with its two bright star clusters:  Pleiades and Hyades.

On April 24, Venus is closest to Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades cluster.  They are 3.5 degrees apart.

The Pleiades is a compact grouping of bright bluish stars known to school children as “The Seven Sisters.”  The cluster resembles a tiny dipper.  To the unaided eye, 6 or 7 stars are visible.  A dozen or so through binoculars.  A few hundred through telescopes.  The Hyades are nearby.  This group resembles a check mark, a letter “V” when Aldebaran is included, although it is not part of the cluster.

Astronomical theory describes that stars are formed in bunches from a stellar, gaseous nebula.  Over time the mutual gravitation pull of the stars within the cluster is not strong enough to keep the group together.  The Hyades and Pleaides are close enough (within 400 light years) that they can be seen without a telescope.  Many star clusters are just beyond the perception of our eyes.

The star cluster pair is best-observed through binoculars,  Start observing Venus’ movement through the region nightly at mid-month.  On April 18, the crescent moon appears among the Hyades.

Watch the events unfold during the spring evenings.

For more about Venus and the bright evening planets, see these articles:

2017, July 14: Venus and Aldebaran

Brilliant Venus shines low in the eastern sky this morning at 4:15 a.m. CDT with Aldebaran about 4 degrees away.  Click the image to see the stars near Aldebaran that comprise the Hyades star cluster.  The Pleiades cluster appears above Venus and Aldebaran.

For more information about sky watching events: