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Monday, February 1, 2021

What's In The Sky - February 2021

Clear February nights present some great stargazing opportunities suggested here by Orion Telescopes and Binoculars. Be sure to bundle up and keep warm while you get outside for some stargazing fun!

M81 - The Cigar Galaxy and M82 - Bode's Galaxy in Ursa Major. Image processed by Insight Observatory Starbase subscriber, Daniel Nobre from image data acquired on the 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).
M81 - The Cigar Galaxy and M82 - Bode's Galaxy in Ursa Major. Image processed by Insight Observatory Starbase subscriber, Daniel Nobre from image data acquired on the 16" f/3.7 Dream astrograph reflector (ATEO-1).

Bright Galaxies

In late February, bright galaxies M81 and M82 will be about as high in the sky as they will get for North American stargazers. From a dark sky site, these galaxies are visible with a 50mm or larger binocular, but we suggest you use a large telescope to chase these galaxies down just off the leading edge of the Big Dipper asterism. Many observers consider M81 and M82 the best pairing of visual galaxies in the sky!

M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy (left) processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M45 processed by Chris Lin both imaged on ATEO-1 using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application.
M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy (left) processed by Utkarsh Mishra and M45 processed by Chris Lin both imaged on ATEO-1 using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application.

Binocular Targets

Astronomy isn't always about how much gear you have! Grab some Astro binoculars and check out the night sky without a lot of equipment. The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is high in the sky in the evening right now, with the Pleiades (M45) higher up. Both make great targets for almost any binocular!

The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

On February 11th there is a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in the early morning just before sunrise. With a separation of 0.5 degrees, the pair will be close enough together to fit into the field of view of most telescopes around 75x-100x magnification. Plus with Saturn still, nearby, it's a great morning for planetary viewing. Get up early, find a clear southeastern horizon, and see if you can get a good view before sunrise!

M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy in Virgo (left) and M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right) both imaged on ATEO-1 by Charles Weaver using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application.
M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy in Virgo (left) and M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (right) both imaged on ATEO-1 by Charles Weaver using Insight Observatory's online Personal Image Request (PIR) application.

Midnight Spirals

Some galaxies for the night owls, the Sombrero Galaxy (M104) and the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) are some nice spiral galaxies that are both visible after midnight in February. The spiral arms of M51 can be glimpsed under dark skies with a 4.5" telescope, but will have more definition in larger telescopes. M104 is similar, it is visible in a 4" size telescope, but to distinguish the central "bulge" an 8" or larger instrument is required.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.

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