Venus, Mars, Jupiter Illuminate Skies


Dr. Rishi Shah

The night skies of this month would offer the charms of some major planets like Venus, Mars and Jupiter along with copious enchanting entities of the heavens. Planet Mercury would be perceived in eastern sky before dawn shortly before sunup. It would be fleeting through the north-eastern section of elegant tea-pot-alike constellation Sagittarius (archer) during first week of the month. It would then be lost in solar glare as it would be gliding through the intriguing triangle-mirroring constellation Capricornus (sea goat). Planet Venus would be visible in western sky after nightfall for few hours among the dim stars of congenial constellation Aquarius (water bearer). It would be wandering through southern realm of pleasingly broad constellation Pisces (fishes). 

The red planet Mars could be marveled in south-eastern sky after sunset. It would be climbing high in southern sky and mingling with the stars of iconic zodiacal constellation Taurus (bull). By midnight it would descend towards south-western horizon. Arcane star Aldebaran (Rohini) would be shimmering softly below Mars. Conspicuous constellation Orion (hunter or Kal Purush) would be sprawling splendidly below Taurus with its most fulgent stars like the blue-white supergiant massive stars Rigel and Betelgeuse (Ardra). Rigel would be composed cryptically of four stars. It would be merely 860 light-years away.

Betelgeuse In Centre

If Betelgeuse would be put down at the center of our Solar System, its surface would lie beyond the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and engulf the orbits of planets Mercury, Venus, earth and Mars. It would be astonishingly 548 light-years away from us. Star Aldebaran would be fairly 65 light-years away. 

Planet Jupiter could be joyfully admired briefly for some hours in western sky after sundown among the stars that dwell in the southern sparse side of constellation Pisces and southern sector of commanding constellation Cetus (whale). Magnificent variable star Mira would be relaxing cheerfully in Cetus. It would be sheer 300 light-years from us. Planet Neptune could be discerned to the west of Jupiter.  

Planet Saturn would not be seen this month. It would be sliding through Capricornus and Aquarius in the vicinity of the Sun. Planet Uranus could be applauded in south-western sky tersely after tenebrous night would start. It could be glimpsed as gleaming point of light in the barren expanse stretching in the southern segment of puny constellation Aries (ram). Far-flung planet Neptune could be picked out in western horizon at commencement of month in the eastern region of constellation Aquarius. It would be standing northeast of Venus and be evanescent later in the month. The full moon would befall on 05 February, while the new moon would betide on 20 February. This full moon has been recognized popularly as the snow moon because the heaviest snows would be evident during this time of the year. 

Venerated Maha Shiva Ratri would be celebrated respectfully on 18 February. 

Asteroid 2 Pallas would be curving across the star-field of constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog) towards the most resplendent star Sirius (Lubdhak). It could be chased as shining spot of light in the evening sky above south-eastern horizon after dusk. It would reach its highest position in the sky later in the night above southern horizon. After around mid-night it would slowly sink towards south-western horizon. Sirius has been colloquially known as the Dog Star, reflecting its prominence in its constellation. Its heliacal rising before sunrise had marked the flooding of the Nile in ancient Egypt and the dog days of summer for the Greeks. For Polynesians in the Southern Hemisphere, Sirius had heralded winter and was an important reference for their travel around the Pacific Ocean. Sirius is surprisingly 8.6 light-years away. Pallas has been the third-largest asteroid in the Solar System. Its orbital period has been circa 4.613 years. Pallas had been ascertained by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers in 1802. It has revealed extraordinarily violent history with numerous impacts, most likely due to its odd orbit. This asteroid has acclaimed average diameter of purely 513 kilometers.

Recently, comparatively minute asteroid BU 2023 had passed super closely by earth without posing any risk of hitting our planet. It had missed earth by perfectly safe margin of solely 3600 kilometers, as it made its nearest encounter with earth above the southern tip of South America. The petit asteroid was seriously ten times closer to the planet than the trajectories of geostationary weather satellites and quirkily six times nearer than the path of navigation satellites. The asteroid BU 2023 was scant eight meters wide. If it were to enter earth's atmosphere, it would mostly burn up, producing stunning fireballs.

A few fragments could potentially survive and fall to the ground in the form of meteorites. Its trail around the Sun had been roughly circular and would take 359 days to complete it. Earth's gravity would push BU 2023 into more elliptical circuit after the tryst, and would be carried halfway to Mars at its farthest place from the Sun.

Creepy Comet

A green-hued long-period creepy comet dubbed C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has been hurtling towards our Sun. On 01 February 2023 the comet would make closest approach to earth (perigee) from a distance of 42.471730 million kilometers with speed of amazingly 57 kilometers per second. It would be interestingly 173.4 million kilometers from the Sun. It would be its first renewed rendezvous with earth after practically 50 thousand years (orbit duration). It would be within the boundaries of the vague and feebly wan constellation of Camelopardalis (giraffe). By 05 February, it would traverse to the west of the brilliant yellow-white star queer quadruple star Capella (Brahma Hridaya) glistening graciously in pentagon-mimicking constellation Auriga (charioteer).

Capella would be basically 42.9 light-years away. After 07 February there would be window of darkness for observing the comet well. After night-begin the comet would sit satisfactorily to upper left of Mars and would be hovering above the southeast horizon in the 

constellation Taurus. 

It could become faintly noticeable to unaided eye as the comet had been displaying a distinct greenish color and sprouting two tails, one of which would look impressively long. Comet's green head has been concocted by deviant diatomic-carbon molecule made from two carbon atoms bonded together. 

By mid-April 2023 the comet would be out of sight. It could hardly be distinguished in south-western sky in the lengthy constellation Eridanus (river), which would be meandering mysteriously in the sky from north to south. It would be whooping 0.327679 billion kilometers away from us then. Ardent comet-fans would bid adieu then to the happy cosmic harbinger. On 02 March 2022 astronomers Frank Masci and Bryce Bolin using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California had identified the comet. It was at the closest location (perihelion) to the Sun on 12 January 2023 at 166.054 million kilometers in constellation Corona Borealis (Northern Crown). On 28 January 2023, the comet was far north towards Ursa Minor (Lesser Bear alias Little Dipper). Ursa Minor has been traditionally paramount for sailing by mariners, because of adamant Polaris (Dhruba Tara) or North Pole star, which would be uniquely 448 light-years away. 

Uncanny Star

The uncanny star Kochab in the bowl of Little Dipper asterism would be 130 light-years away. Compact constellation Corona Borealis would house most luminous stars decorated in form a semi-circular arc. Its Latin co-name northern crown has been inspired by its shape. Other cultures had likened the pattern to circle of elders, eagle's nest, bear's den or smoke hole.

Alpha Coronae Borealis would be the most fulgurating star lying at simply 75 light-years. The yellow supergiant R-Coronae Borealis would be the prototype of a rare class of giant stars. T-Coronae Borealis (Blaze Star) would be another unusual type of recurrent nova (flare-up). The comet’s preceding passage through our inner Solar System had arguably been during the Upper Paleolithic or 

Old Stone Age. 

Probably the last people to witness this visitor from the depths of the outer Solar System could have plausibly been those early Homo sapiens or Neanderthals alive during the final glacial period or ice age. 

(Dr. Shah is an academician at NAST and patron of National Astronomical Society, NASO)  

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