Where have all the planets gone? The end of February 2018 sees the three naked eye outer planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn– hiding in the dawn. It takes an extra effort to brave the chill of a February morning, for sure. The good news is, the two inner planets – Mercury and Venus – begin favorable dusk apparitions this week, putting on a fine sunset showing in March.
Yeah, we’re still all waiting for that next great “Comet of the Century” to make its presence known. In the meantime, we’ve had a steady stream of good binocular comets over the past year both expected and new, including Comet C/2017 O1 ASASSN1 (name and link), 45/P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková and Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák (links). Now, another newcomer Comet Heinze is set to bring 2017 in over the finish line.
Up for a challenge? Over the next two weekends, two asteroid occultations pass over North America. These are both occulting (passing in front of) +7th magnitude stars, easy targets for even binoculars or a small telescope. These events both have a probability score of 99-100%, meaning the paths are known to a high degree of accuracy. These are also two of the more high profile asteroid occultations for 2016.