Crescent Moon Comeback / See Tonight’s Mars-Uranus Duet In Binoculars

Annular solar eclipse as viewed from Coyhaique, Chile

Let’s start today with time lapse video of Sunday’s “ring of fire” solar eclipse. It mixes images of sun in eclipse with the human scene. Notice that even at maximum eclipse — when most of the sun was covered — it was still “sunny” outside. It’s hard to tell from the crowd shots that the scene got darker around the time of greatest eclipse possibly because the camera automatically compensated for the drop in light. Also, the sun was never fully covered by the moon, so it shone throughout the eclipse. This assumes the photographer matched the crowd video with the progress of the eclipse, as seen in the smaller window.

This map shows the sky this evening (Feb. 27) facing west an hour after sunset. You can start even earlier than that to see the new lunar crescent and Venus. Mars and Uranus will be an easy sight in binoculars starting about an hour and a half after sunset. Created with Stellarium

Tonight, the moon’s only a day and a half past new, so we can watch the delicate lunar crescent reappear low in the western sky a half hour or so after sundown. It will be very fragile in appearance; don’t look too hard or you might break it! Tuesday evening (Feb. 28), the crescent will be thicker and higher in the sky as it sidles up near the brilliant planet Venus. Then, on Wednesday, March 1, it swings south of Mars.

This will be the scene in binoculars tonight facing west starting about 90 minutes after sunset. Use the first map at top to find Mars (it’s a fist to the upper left of Venus), then point your binoculars at the Red Planet. Uranus will appear a degree below (south) and a little left of Mars as shown in the binocular simulation. The brightest stars in the field of view are Mu and Zeta Piscium in Pisces the Fish. Created with Stellarium

Also tonight, Mars and Uranus will be in conjunction tonight, and just 1° or two full moon diameters apart. Anytime  a faint outer planet passes near a bright, naked-eye one, it’s time to whip out the binoculars (or a scope if you have one) and use that bright planet to guide you directly to the fainter one. Earlier this year, Mars and Neptune embraced. Now it’s Uranus’ turn.

The western sky will be busy the next few nights!

** To learn more about the planets and how to keep track of them, get a copy of my recent book “Night Sky with the Naked Eye.” It’s available at  at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.