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Supplied photo

Supplied photo

Mario Carr, Hamilton Amateur Astronomers

Looking Up: A clash of two galaxies

Think you’re still when you’re sitting down? Think again. You’re actually moving thousands of kilometres per minute. That’s because the Earth and everything in our Milky Way galaxy is on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy.

Don’t worry, it’s not supposed to happen for another four billion years. Currently we’re 2.5 million light years apart, explained McMaster astronomer Laura Parker, who recently gave a talk to the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers’ club about galaxy evolution.

When this clash happens, the hundreds of billions of stars making up each spiral galaxy will merge into one gigantic elliptical galaxy. Also, the night sky will not be the same. It will be brighter from all the light of nearby stars.

Planet watching

The best time of the year to see Mercury is the first three weeks of February in the western evening sky near sunset. Venus is very low in the eastern morning sky as it drops towards the sun’s glare and vanishes completely by the end of the month.

Mars is low in the southwestern evening twilight sky and also vanishes into the glare of the sun by month’s end. It won’t reappear until June. Jupiter is a bright object high in the sky and sets after midnight.

Saturn rises near midnight and Uranus is low in the western evening sky.

Feb. 3 – The last quarter moon is close to Saturn in the dawn sky.

Feb. 8 – The Hamilton Amateur Astronomers’ club meets, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Spectator building, 44 Frid St., Hamilton. Free admission with door prizes. Guest speaker will be McMaster University astronomer Christine Wilson, who will present: Beyond the Visible Universe: Dark Clouds, Galaxy Collisions, and the Origin of Stars. The club’s observing director will also talk about the sky this month.

Also on the same night, Mercury and Mars are very close to each other, low in the western evening sky at dusk.

Feb. 11 – The thin crescent moon joins Mars and Mercury in the evening sky.

Feb. 17 – The first quarter moon is close to Jupiter in the evening sky.

Feb. 18 – There is a grouping of the moon, Jupiter and Aldebaran in the evening sky.

Feb. 24 – The moon is just below Regulas in the evening sky.

Feb. 25 – The full moon this month is called the Snow Moon.

Feb. 28 – The moon is very close to Spica rising just before midnight.

For more information, see the club’s  site at www.amateurastronomy.org or call 905-627-4323.

Mario Carr is the club’s director of public education and appears on CHCH TV to talk about the night sky. He can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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