Starcast 3 of 2021: 1 to 15 Feb 2021

Starcast 3 of 2021.

Looking north at 9.pm, Capella is the bright star just above the horizon traced out  by the Swartberg. Joel will miss out on Capella.  Looking higher and northwest,  a dimming Mars, now only magnitude. 0.5, has drifted out of Pisces and into Aries. Look for the conspicuous pair ( Hamal and Sheraton) in Aries. The 7 sisters are high in the northwest, with the head of Taurus a little to its left. Looking northeast, the unmistakable pair of Castor and Pollux (Gemini) are  clearly visible. Orion is almost directly overhead.

This is good opportunity to see the asterism ( just a random pattern of stars) which in the northern hemisphere is called the Winter Hexagon. By extension this  is our Summer Hexagon, but Googling it brings up sweater knitting patterns.
This is also an easy way to start remembering the star names and navigating the skies.
Start with the brightest star in the sky (Sirius). Now move left to Rigel ( the bright blue/white star in Orion). Now move further left to Aldebaran ( the orange star in the “V” of Taurus) . From here move down to Capella ( the bright  star closest to the northern horizon). From here move right ( and a bit upwards) towards Castor ( the star furthest right in Gemini).  From here move right and up to Procyon in Canis minor ( you’re looking due east now) End off by completing the hexagon at Sirius again ( which is Canis Major).   After you learn the distances and spectrographic details of these stars, and whether they have known exoplanets, you’re well on your way to astounding your friends around the braai fire.

While you’re looking east, you may also see Regulus peep over the eastern horizon.  Further right and low on the horizon is a prominent rectangle forming the body of Corvus ( the Crow).

Looking south was dealt with extensively in previous posts.

Looking west  lets start overhead with  very bright Canopus. Further down,  orange Achernar. And lowest, Fomalhaut. Interesting new information about Fomalhaut is that it had a known exoplanet. This planet has just disappeared. That’s the same as waking up to see Venus is just “gone”. Pretty wierd.

Till next time.

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