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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2019
The Great Orion Nebula (NGC 1976) is cataloged as M42 -- Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud. Many of the filamentary structures visible in the featured image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula (IC 434), will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years. This stunning Hubble image offers the sharpest view of the Orion Nebula ever obtained. Created using 520 different Hubble exposures taken in multiple wavelengths of light, this mosaic contains over one billion pixels. Hubble imaged most of the nebula, but ground-based images were used to fill in the gaps in its observations. The orange color in the image can be attributed to hydrogen, green represents oxygen, and the red represents both sulfur and observations made in infrared light. (Credits: NASA and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI) (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto - Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA, and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team).
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2019
Welcome to the night sky report for February 2019 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In February, the Winter Triangle is your guide to the night sky. The northern hemisphere is treated to views of the stars Procyon, Sirius, and Betelgeuse. Keep watching for the awe-inspiring views of the Orion Nebula, which is sculpted by the stellar winds of central bright stars. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. 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 supergiant 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 supergiant. Rigel’s blue supergiant star has a short lifespan. Blue supergiant 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 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.
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 Major Cluster
NGC 2367 Open Cluster P74
NGC 2374 Open Cluster P75
NGC 2383 Open Cluster P135
NGC 2384 Open Cluster P76
Constellation: Canis Minor
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 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
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