Home > Constellations, Deep Sky Object, Ephemeris Program > 02/12/2021 – Ephemeris – Monoceros the unicorn

02/12/2021 – Ephemeris – Monoceros the unicorn

February 12, 2021

This is Ephemeris for Darwin Day, Friday, February 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 6:07, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:45. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 7:07 this evening.

Among all the constellations in the sky of animals real and mythical, there is also a unicorn. It’s called Monoceros, and inhabits the southeastern sky at 8 p.m. mostly bounded by Orion on the right, Canis Major, the great dog below and Canis Minor, the little dog to the left and above. Unfortunately for observers without a telescope Monoceros, is devoid of any but the faintest stars. Maybe that’s why no one sees unicorns anymore. It has many faint stars because the Milky Way runs through it. To the telescope it is a feast of faint nebulae or clouds of gas and dust, the birthplace of stars, including the red rose of the Rosette Nebula, and Hagrid’s Dragon Cluster (NGC 2301). It also contains a beautiful telescopic triple star system, Beta (β) Monocerotis.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Monoceros finder chart

Monoceros finder chart showing neighboring constellations for about 8 pm in mid-February. Created using Stellarium.

The brighter stars of NGC 2301 (Hagrid’s Dragon Cluster, AKA Great Bird Cluster and Copeland’s Golden Worm). It’s also in two other catalogs: Cr 119 and Mel 54. Created using Stellarium and GIMP. Dragon from “Dragon Flying Cycle” on YouTube by Simon Hussey.

Deep Sky Objects around Monoceros

Deep Sky Objects in and around Monoceros. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nebula in the infrared from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The star cluster in the center is visible in a telescope, but the nebula is strictly photographic. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech.

Beta Monocerotis

Telescopic Beta Monocerotis. William Hershel, discoverer of Uranus, said that it was “One of the most beautiful sights in the heavens.” Credit: F. Ringwald, Fresno State.

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