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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Look At The Sky: February

The Planets for FEBRUARY:
A VERY poor month for viewing the major planets, other than brilliant VENUS in early evening skies and your first look at Jupiter in the morning for 2017!

Mercury - Mercury is unfavorably placed in the sky and is in very strong twilight all month - in CAPRICORNUS

Venus - our brightest planet will be high in bright western skies at dusk, and through a telescope this is a good month to view Venus in its CRESCENT phase, only about 28 percent illuminated as seen from Earth., At midmonth, Venus is not gaining any altitude - nor losing any - against the western horizon, but is moving very slightly northward against each night's sunset.  Grouped with Venus on the 15th will be the planets MARS (to the east, or left) and further east will be Uranus.  Mars will be visible to the naked eye as a very reddish bright "star" while Uranus requires telescopes to spot.  - in PISCES.

Mars - See VENUS, above....Mars is very low in west and now distant....not a good telescopic object - in PISCES

Jupiter - Now rising in the EAST about midnight local time, the largest of all planets will be high overhead at about 4:00 a.m. local time and high in the sky about the time that ringed Saturn rises in the east; look for the bright gibbous moon very close to Jupiter on the 15th - in VIRGO

Saturn - Very low in eastern skies and rising about 3:30 a.m. local time, the ringed planet will make its yearly debut in predawn skies by midmonth - in OPHIUCHUS/Sagittarius

Uranus - distant planet Uranus is setting in the west near Mars and Venus at mid-month.   It shines at magnitude 5.9, bright enough to spot in good binoculars if one knows where to look; use a good planetarium sky program or GO TO telescope to locate this distant world; by sunrise it is high in dark skies and will show a faint, blue disk in large telescopes - PISCES

Neptune - Our most distant world, outside of Pluto, is now setting in strong twilight in western skies and will not be viewable for a couple of months.. - in AQUARIUS

Pluto - at magnitude 14.3, our most distant planet ( is a planet) will begin to be visible in bright eastern dawn skies, right on the horizon about 5:30 a.m. late in the month. It will be visible in telescopes very low in the east late in December.  - in SAGITTARIUS

METEOR SHOWER for February 2017:  

Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen!  During March, three primary meteor showers peak but none are on the order of which we could call "major events."  However, as with a months and times during the year, observers should always be aware that new sporadic meteor showers can occur at anytime from seemingly unknown sources and radiant's,

February 26 - DELTA LEONID METEORS - With the moon being nearly new on both days on either side of this date of this minor meteor shower, 2017 will prove to be an excellent year for observing 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 gibbous moon is in the sky from before midnight to dawn, this should be a great year at best to watch for this mysterious meteor shower.

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