When stars like the Sun come to the end of their lives they emit a shell of gas that glows due to ionisation from the remaining core of the star. Planetary nebulae are typically about a light-year in diameter and often look beautiful in images and long exposure photographs. The name was coined by William Herschel who thought their resembled the planets, although they have no connection whatsoever with them.

There are no planetary nebulae visible to the naked eye but the brightest examples can be seen in binoculars and small scopes. These include the Ring Nebula (M57), the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) and the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293).

The Helix Nebula is the brightest planetary nebula in the sky (credit:- NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Glossary A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Sky Highlights - February 2017

Comets
Comet Encke (2P/Encke) now visible in the western sky during evening twilight
Now is the last good chance to see comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova before it dramatically fades

Conjunction
Mars passes less than 1 degree north of Uranus on February 27th

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for February 2017

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
Southwest:- Venus (mag. -4.8), Mars (mag. +1.1 to +1.3), Uranus (mag. +5.9)
Midnight
East:- Jupiter (mag. -2.1 to -2.3)
Morning
South:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.6)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Venus, Mars, Uranus
Midnight
East:- Jupiter
Morning
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn, Mercury (mag. -0.2 - first half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Messier 45 - M45 - The Pleiades (Open Cluster)
The Hyades - Open Cluster
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)
Messier 35 - M35 - Open Cluster
Messier 42 - M42 - The Great Orion Nebula (Emission/Reflection)

Small telescopes:-
Messier 36 - M36 - Open Cluster
Messier 37 - M37 - Open Cluster
Messier 38 - M38 - Open Cluster

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Current Moon Phase

CURRENT MOON

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