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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Look At The Sky: February

The Solar System in JANUARY 2015 :
Mercury -  Mercury is very close to the glare of the sun but can be viewed about one hour before sunrise in the eastern sky during twilight at mid-week of this month, this very elusive planet reaches its greatest western elongation (see daily listings below) on February 25   - in CAPRICORNUS.
Venus - Very bright and rising higher each night this month in evening skies; see MARS (below) about the remarkable conjunction of Mars and Venus on Feb. 21!  -  In PISCES
Mars -  Mars is now approaching the sun, as we see it from Earth, and setting in the very early evening, about 7 p.m. local time; at only 4.3" arc in diameter, nothing in the way of observable surface features will be visible this month; Mars will rapidly disappear from evening skies and it will be over a year before good viewing of this planet will commence. NOTE the very close pass of Venus by Mars....Venus will be moving rapidly eastward, with a very slow motion to the west by Mars; on Feb 18 through Feb. 25, both planets will be in the same field of view in low power telescopes, with much brighter Venus just BARELY below (south of) the distinctly red Mars.  They will be closest on the evening of Feb. 21 about 7:30 p.m. local time very low in western skies....mark your calendars for this one! - In PISCES
Jupiter -  Our mightiest planet, the gas giant JUPITER, reaches opposition this month and is about as favorable for observing as one can wish for; rising at sunset in the east and transiting overhead (for northern observers) at midnight, this solar system king will be at one of the most favorable oppositions in many years.  - in GEMINI
Saturn - Rising about 2 a.m. local time, Saturn will be high in the southeastern sky by dawn with its majestic rings opened nearly full tilt (about 25 degrees) for beautiful viewing.  -  In LIBRA

FEBRUARY 03 - FULL MOON - 05:09 p.m. CST

There is ONE very active comet brighter than magnitude 10 predicted for February 2015:
Comet Lovejoy c2014 Q2 - This is likely to be "The Comet of 2015" for northern hemisphere observers....putting on a spectacular show throughout late 2014 for the observers in the southern hemisphere, this comet is now very high overhead, almost circumpolar, by midmonth in February.  It should be naked eye at this time, high in the constellation of ANDROMEDA by the time the skies darken, and only slightly further west throughout the rest of the evening.  This comet does not set until around 2 a.m., so this should prove to be quite a sight.  Right now, the very active tail should be shooting off to the northeast from a very large and green coma, with distinct nucleus.  Don't miss this one, folks....these do not come by with this ease of observation very often!


February 26 - DELTA LEONID METEORS - With the moon being right at first quarter on both days on either side of this date of this minor meteor shower, 2015 will prove to be an fair year for the Delta Leonid meteors it appears......and..this one is the only meteor shower that February has to offer each year.   The Earth actually intersects the cloud of cometary or asteroidal (the actual source of the cloud is not known at this time....) as early as Feb. 5 each year and seems to be encountering meteoric material as late as March 19; nonetheless, there IS a definite peak each year that seems to center on the last few days of February.  These are moderately slow meteors, traveling at about 24 KPS, and only about five per hour can be expected at most.  The radiant, at astronomical coordinates: RA 10h 36m / DEC +19 deg, is found about midway between the moderately bright stars Zosma and Algeiba (the two that make the long stretch of the Lion's Back in Leo); look for these stars and the meteor shower to be nearly overhead for mid-northern latitudes about 11 p.m. local time, with most meteors seen well after.  Since the first quarter moon sets nearly at midnight, this should be a very favorable year to watch for this mysterious meteor shower.

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