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See 5, maybe 7 planets Feb 2020 - Great for Everyone

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#1 aeajr

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 03:06 PM

We have an opportunity to see all 5 bright planets in February (and maybe the two dim ones too)

Where to look - This is based on New York, USA, 40 degrees north.   Naturally you will have to adjust a bit for your location. 

For those new to planetary observing, we find the planets on the ecliptic, that imaginary line that is traced by the Sun as it rises in the east, travels the sky and sets in the west.  In the pictures below it is shown as a red/orange line.  So note each day where the sun rises, where it is a noon and where it sets.  That is the ecliptic line.

Mercury will look like a star, so you need to spot it by it location.  It can ususally be seen naked eye, with binoculars and telescope.

Venus and Jupiter look like large bright stars.  Saturn is bright too, but not as bright as Jupiter.  You can confirm its position by its relation to Jupiter in the diagrams.

Using Stellarium or some similar program you can change the date and time to see the sky specifically for your location.  I have captured the sky at two particular times at 40 degrees North latitude.  You can move forward and back by date and time to see how they will be positioned on any given night.

For planets, I set south to the bottom of the screen which is how it would look if I was facing south.  For this observation I would set the time around 6 am, around sunrise, and move the time forward and back to see where the planets will be so I know where to look with my eyes, my binoculars or my telescope.   If you have a different app on your phone or computer, you should be able to do something similar.

The images below were taken from Stellarium.     www.stellarium.org 

From 40 degrees north, if the sky is clear at 6 pm on February 15th, if you look to the southwest, just as the Sun it setting, you can catch Mercury, about 9 degrees above the horizon with Venus about 30 degrees above the horizon and very bright.   Note that if you are up for a challenge, you can see where Uranus and Neptune will be though these are not visible naked eye and likely not even with binoculars this close to sunset.
 
 
On February 17 at 6 am you will see a bright moon, about 30% illuminated.  We will use that as our reference point.  To the left of the Moon will be Mars, about 12 degrees over, which will appear as a small red/orange disk or star.  You can use the hand spans shown below to help you measure distance
 
From Mars we continue left and down for about 16 degrees to Jupiter, then another 9 degrees to Saturn which will be low on the horizon. Saturn will only be 6 degrees above the horizon so it may be blocked by buildings for some people.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Mercury and Venus on 2-15-20  6 pm.png
  • Saturn Jupiter Mars and Moon on Feb 17 2020 6 am.png

Edited by aeajr, 14 February 2020 - 03:16 PM.

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#2 aeajr

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 03:07 PM

Measuring Distances

If you are using binoculars, the field of view is often marked on the binocular.  For example, 10X50 binoculars typically provide about a 6 degree field of view, 8X40 about 7 degrees and 7X35 about 8 degree FOV.  Check the markings on your binoculars.  

 

If you have a magnifying finder on your telescope you should check the manual to see what the field of view is for that finder.  An 8X50 or 9X50 finder would typically be around 5 degrees FOV.  A 6X30 would have about an 8 degree field of view. You can use this to measure distances.

 

You can also use your hands to estimate distances.

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • Hand Span Measurements.png

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#3 ButterFly

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 04:12 PM

Mars will be easy to find in the daytime on the 18th when it emerges from behind the unlit part of the moon.  It is worth setting up a scope to try to catch that.  I would love to hear whether anyone can see it with 10x50 binoculars.


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#4 Thomas Marshall

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 07:19 PM

We have an opportunity to see all 5 bright planets in February (and maybe the two dim ones too)

Where to look - This is based on New York, USA, 40 degrees north.   Naturally you will have to adjust a bit for your location. 

For those new to planetary observing, we find the planets on the ecliptic, that imaginary line that is traced by the Sun as it rises in the east, travels the sky and sets in the west.  In the pictures below it is shown as a red/orange line.  So note each day where the sun rises, where it is a noon and where it sets.  That is the ecliptic line.

Mercury will look like a star, so you need to spot it by it location.  It can ususally be seen naked eye, with binoculars and telescope.

Venus and Jupiter look like large bright stars.  Saturn is bright too, but not as bright as Jupiter.  You can confirm its position by its relation to Jupiter in the diagrams.

Using Stellarium or some similar program you can change the date and time to see the sky specifically for your location.  I have captured the sky at two particular times at 40 degrees North latitude.  You can move forward and back by date and time to see how they will be positioned on any given night.

For planets, I set south to the bottom of the screen which is how it would look if I was facing south.  For this observation I would set the time around 6 am, around sunrise, and move the time forward and back to see where the planets will be so I know where to look with my eyes, my binoculars or my telescope.   If you have a different app on your phone or computer, you should be able to do something similar.

The images below were taken from Stellarium.     www.stellarium.org 

From 40 degrees north, if the sky is clear at 6 pm on February 15th, if you look to the southwest, just as the Sun it setting, you can catch Mercury, about 9 degrees above the horizon with Venus about 30 degrees above the horizon and very bright.   Note that if you are up for a challenge, you can see where Uranus and Neptune will be though these are not visible naked eye and likely not even with binoculars this close to sunset.
 
 
On February 17 at 6 am you will see a bright moon, about 30% illuminated.  We will use that as our reference point.  To the left of the Moon will be Mars, about 12 degrees over, which will appear as a small red/orange disk or star.  You can use the hand spans shown below to help you measure distance
 
From Mars we continue left and down for about 16 degrees to Jupiter, then another 9 degrees to Saturn which will be low on the horizon. Saturn will only be 6 degrees above the horizon so it may be blocked by buildings for some people.

I was going to do this "Planet Marathon", with my 15x70's. I already got the 4 evening planets this last 2 weeks, Neptune was the only difficult one, but got a clear horizon and a good definite sight of it, but did not go out in the AM to log the morning planets. Last night was going to do All of them, but I let Neptune get too low, and couldn't quite bring it out with the binoculars, so when I go out to watch the Mars occultation, I will look at the morning planets with binoculars also, to complete all seven, and check out the ground to make it all 8. It just will not be in one 24hr. period.  



#5 sunnyday

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:50 PM

thank you so much.


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#6 tchandler

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 06:49 AM

Antares, Moon, Mars, and Jupiter were nicely lined up this morning. Shy Saturn was probably close by too but sneakily shining behind a stolid duplex.

 

I enjoy seeing Mars and his red rival together in the sky, where they’re not really rivals at all. That’s our baggage writ in the stars. When I think about it, it’s a little odd they’re thought of that way. Isn’t imitation supposed to be the highest form of flattery? 


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