Home > News > Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2018
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2018 Posted by Guy Pirro on 2/6/2018 1:38 PM
NGC 2287, or Messier 41 (M41) is an open cluster in the constellation Canis Major. It contains only about one hundred stars, including several bright red giants (which appear orange, as do all red giants). The bright star in the lower left is a foreground blue giant, not part of the cluster. Roughly 2300 light years away and around 25 light years across, M41 is about 200 million years old. This approximately true-color image was created from eleven images taken in September 1997 using BVR colors at the Burrell Schmidt telescope of Case Western Reserve University's Warner and Swasey Observatory located on Kitt Peak, near Tucson, Arizona. Image Credit: National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), National Science Foundation(NSF).
Welcome to the night sky report for February 2018 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase, so get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The winter night sky, filled with brilliant stars, presents one of the best celestial views. Orion, the Great Hunter of Greek mythology, dominates the winter sky. This constellation is among the easiest to recognize. It is full of young stars, dying stars, and many nebulae.
Betelgeuse, one of Orion's shoulders, is a red super-giant star about 650 times bigger than the Sun. It shines with the brightness of tens of thousands of Suns. Betelgeuse is near the end of its life. With the fuel at the star's core practically depleted, the core has contracted and heated, causing the outer gaseous layers of the star to swell.
Rigel, one of Orion's knees, is a triple-star system made up of two smaller stars orbiting a blue super-giant. Rigel's blue super-giant star has a short lifespan. Blue super-giant stars are much hotter than our Sun and use up their fuel quickly.
Orion's Belt is easy to spot. It is made up of three stars, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. From the left side of Orion's Belt, look down to the Great Orion Nebula. Although barely visible to the naked eye, it is the brightest diffuse gas cloud in the night sky. "Nebula" is Latin for cloud. A small telescope unveils the details and grandeur of the nebula. Embedded inside the Orion Nebula is the Trapezium, a group of hot young stars so brilliant they cause the surrounding gas to glow.
Canis Major, the Great Dog, is the faithful companion who follows in Orion's footsteps. Canis Major is dominated by the most brilliant star in the night sky, Sirius. Sirius is actually a double system, containing a bright star and a much smaller and fainter companion. It is a mere 8.6 light years away.
Scanning with binoculars just below Sirius will reveal a lovely cluster of stars called NGC 2287 - M41. It contains about 100 stars, including several red giants. Stars in clusters like M41 were born together and are all about the same age.
Jupiter rises shortly after midnight, soon followed by Mars. A small telescope will reveal the cloud bands of Jupiter, and the reddish hue of Mars.
On February 15th, the Moon passes across the upper part of the solar disk, producing a partial solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible only from southern South America and parts of Antarctica.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."
NGC 2632 Open Cluster M44 – Beehive Cluster NGC 2682 Open Cluster M67 NGC 2775 Galaxy C48, Herschel 400 H2-1
Constellation: Canis Major
IC 468 Diffuse Nebula P132 IC 2165 Planetary Nebula P133 NGC 2204 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H13-7 NGC 2207 Galaxy P216 - IC 2163 Galaxy Interacting with P216 NGC 2217 Galaxy P72 NGC 2243 Open Cluster P134 NGC 2287 Open Cluster M41 NGC 2345 Open Cluster P73 NGC 2354 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H16-7 NGC 2359 Diffuse Nebula P20 Thor's Helmet NGC 2360 Open Cluster C58, Herschel 400 H12-7 NGC 2362 Open Cluster C64, Herschel 400 H17-7 Tau Canis Majoris Cluster NGC 2367 Open Cluster P74 NGC 2374 Open Cluster P75 NGC 2383 Open Cluster P135 NGC 2384 Open Cluster P76
NGC 2419 Globular Cluster C25, Herschel 400 H218-1 NGC 2683 Galaxy Herschel 400 H200-1 NGC 2782 Galaxy Herschel 400 H167-1
IC 434 Diffuse Nebula P92 Horsehead Nebula NGC 1662 Open Cluster P39 NGC 1788 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H32-5 NGC 1976 Diffuse Nebula M42 Great Orion Nebula NGC 1977 Open Cluster P40 Running Man Nebular Cluster - NGC 1973 Diffuse Nebula Part of P40 - NGC 1975 Diffuse Nebula Part of P40 NGC 1980 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H31-5 NGC 1981 Open Cluster P41 NGC 1982 Diffuse Nebula M43 DeMairan's Nebula NGC 1999 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H33-4 NGC 2022 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H34-4 NGC 2023 Diffuse Nebula P93 NGC 2024 Diffuse Nebula Herschel 400 H28-5 Flame Nebula NGC 2039 Open Cluster P94 NGC 2068 Diffuse Nebula M78 NGC 2071 Diffuse Nebula P42 NGC 2112 Open Cluster P170 NGC 2141 Open Cluster P171 NGC 2143 Open Cluster P172 NGC 2169 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H24-8 NGC 2175 Open Cluster P43 - NGC 2174 Diffuse Nebula Part of P43 - IC 2159 Diffuse Nebula Part of P43 NGC 2186 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H25-7 NGC 2194 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H5-6
NGC 2298 Globular Cluster P98 NGC 2396 Open Cluster P99 NGC 2409 Open Cluster P100 NGC 2414 Open Cluster P101 NGC 2421 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H67-7 NGC 2422 Open Cluster M47, Herschel 400 H38-8 NGC 2423 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H28-7 NGC 2432 Open Cluster P241 NGC 2437 Open Cluster M46 - NGC 2438 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H39-4 Part of M46 NGC 2439 Open Cluster P46 NGC 2440 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H64-4 NGC 2447 Open Cluster M93 NGC 2451 Open Cluster P47 NGC 2453 Open Cluster P176 NGC 2455 Open Cluster P242 NGC 2467 Open Cluster P102 NGC 2477 Open Cluster C71 NGC 2479 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H58-7 NGC 2482 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H10-7 NGC 2483 Open Cluster P103 NGC 2489 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H23-7 NGC 2509 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H1-8 NGC 2527 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H30-8 NGC 2533 Open Cluster P104 NGC 2539 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H11-7 NGC 2546 Open Cluster P48 NGC 2567 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H64-7 NGC 2568 Open Cluster P177 NGC 2571 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H39-6 NGC 2579 Open Cluster P105 NGC 2580 Open Cluster P178 NGC 2587 Open Cluster P179 NGC 2588 Open Cluster P243
NGC 2613 Galaxy Herschel 400 H266-2 NGC 2627 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H63-7 NGC 2635 Open Cluster P244 NGC 2658 Open Cluster P180 NGC 2818 Planetary Nebula P245