Starwatch: Mars and Aldebaran flank the waxing half moon

The red planet, although faded since last year’s magnificence, will still appear as bright as the eye of Taurus

Starwatch chart 15 February 2021

This week boasts a picturesque combination of celestial objects with Taurus, the bull, as the backdrop adding even more interest.

The chart shows the view from London looking south-west at 7pm on 19 February. The moon will be waxing and at its first-quarter phase, often colloquially called a half moon, which occurs halfway between the new moon and full moon. It will be located almost precisely halfway between the red star of Aldebaran, the bull’s eye, and Mars, which is currently cruising through the constellation.

Although Mars has faded from its magnificent display of last year, because the distance between Mars and Earth is increasing, it is still as bright as Aldebaran. Completing the picture is the beautiful star cluster of the Pleiades, the seven sisters. Despite its name, only five stars are readily visible to the naked eye. A little experience reveals the next two but expert observers have claimed to see more than a dozen.

Southern skywatchers can also catch this tableau by looking low in the north-east. At 9pm on 19 February from Sydney, the moon will appear to be closer to Mars than Aldebaran.