Downloadable Star Charts:
Star Chart for February – Eastern Sky 2014
Star Chart for February – Western Sky 2014
Star Chart for March – Eastern Sky 2014
Star Chart for March – Western Sky 2014
SUMMER SKY GUIDE
DECEMBER 2013 / JANUARY 2014 / FEBRUARY 2014
For most of us, warm evenings combined with a holiday break provides the best time of the year for looking at the stars. Use this chance to learn some of those special constellations with familiar names. These patterns of stars and their link to the seasons was very well known to our ancestors, even a few generations ago.
To get started learning the summer sky, there are some key landmarks to find. First look north and find the three bright stars in a line, often called ‘The Pot’. These stars make up Orion’s Belt, one of the most distinctive guides of the night sky.
Directly below the Belt stars, rising in the northeast is a very bright tawny yellow object. This is the planet Jupiter and it is currently within the constellation Gemini. A good pair of binoculars, held very steady, may show you Jupiter’s family of four large moons arranged in a line coinciding with the planet’s equator, which we see edge on. Below Jupiter you will see the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux. Extend the line of the Belt stars to the right (east) and you will find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Extending the line to the left (west) from the Belt and you will find the orange star, Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus. Continue that line further to the left and you will find the beautiful star cluster, the Pleiades (Matariki). Going back to Orion’s Belt, identify the bright stars Rigel (white) and Betelgeuse (reddish) which are respectively above and below the Belt. Those two bright stars, together with two slightly fainter ones enclose, most of Orion with the Belt being in the middle.
Following a line up the sky through Orion towards the south brings you to Canopus, the second brightest star of the night sky. The final bright star to locate is Achernar, marking the end of the meandering constellation of Eridanus (the River).
Once you have located these bright landmarks in the sky, you can explore further by identifying some of the more prominent constellations.
At dawn on 25 January, early risers will be rewarded by the fine sight of Venus low in the east with Mars and Saturn higher in the sky in company with the Moon. The beautiful constellation of Scorpius adds
to this picturesque gathering.
Canopus, known as Atutahi to the Māori, is the second brightest star of the night sky and dominating our view overhead. It is the brightest star of the important southern constellation Carina yet its distance of 310 light-years has only been reliably determined in the last 20 years.
Low in the east pre-dawn during December but moves past the sun at New Year 2014. After that Mercury moves into the western sky setting soon after the Sun but best seen at the end of January before it moves back towards the Sun.
In the western sky early evening in December, passing the sun during January but visible again in the dawn eastern sky in February.
Mars is in the morning sky during December 2013 and continues rising earlier during January and February. Easily found close to Spica in Virgo before dawn.
Rising after midnight in Gemini during December 2013. At opposition early in January and due north at about 1am. Becomes more accessible for evening viewing from March.
Saturn has moved into Libra during December 2013, visible in the dawn sky. It rises earlier by two hours a month so by February it is high in the sky by dawn between Antares and Mars.