The Night Sky Report
February 6, 2020
January has provided us with some typical Oklahoma weather this month … Will Rogers hit it right on the nose when he said that if you didn’t like the weather, just wait around for 10 minutes. Several Viewing sessions had to be cancelled because of that very reason!
Mid-January through mid-February is statistically the coldest period of the year so maybe it is a good thing that there doesn’t seem to be much going on in the night sky over the next couple of weeks.
Highlights: The Moon reaches first quarter on the first and while it is not astronomically significant, the second is notable as being Groundhog Day. Full Moon occurs on the ninth. Mercury reaches its highest point in the western sky and the Moon reaches its closest approach to the Earth (perigee), in its monthly circuit around the Earth, on the evening of the 10th at a distance of 223,980 miles.
Again, not astronomically significant, the 14th is Valentine’s Day, lest we forget! The Moon reaches third quarter on the 15th. On the 18th the Moon passes to the north of Mars, on the 19th it passes south of Jupiter, then on the 20th, to the south of first Pluto then Saturn. New Moon is on the 23rd.
Mercury reaches inferior conjunction (between the Sun and the Earth) on the 25th. The moon reaches apogee on the 26th at 252,450 miles. The Moon passes to the south of Venus on the 27th and south of Uranus on the 28th. Then on the last day of a leap year February, in the hour before dawn, we will be able to view a Mars, Jupiter, Saturn planetary alignment just above the eastern horizon.
Comets: Comet PANSTARRS (C/2017 T2) will continue to be visible in the evening sky all month as it moves past the Perseus Double Cluster and back around toward Cassiopeia. It will remain bright enough to be visible through a 4 inch telescope (or bigger) from dark locations as it reaches a Magnitude of 10 – 9.
Planetary Report: Mercury is in Aquarius. Venus is moving thru Pisces. Mars has moved into Sagittarius joining Jupiter and Pluto. Saturn is between Sagittarius and Capricorn. Uranus is in Pisces along with Venus. Neptune is in Aquarius.
Meteors: While there are no meteor showers predicted for the month, you will be able to catch sporadic meteors at a rate of up to 6 per hour as we pass through the diffuse cloud of debris left by ancient comets all month long.
Astronomical Event Update: Betelgeuse (commonly pronounced: Beetlejuice) located at the top left of the Orion Constellation has remained noticeably dimmer. Again, there are several possible causes being considered, one of which is that it could be a temporary dimming as a result of the coming together of several natural cycles of dimming/brightening or predominant theory that this could be a prelude it running out of fuel and going SUPER NOVA.
And to repeat, going Super Nova would temporarily make it the brightest object in the sky, even outshining the Sun and being visible during daytime for a short time. With Betelgeuse being so, the timing and conditions at the time of the final collapse will determine the final result. Astronomers say that at a distance of 642+ light years, Betelgeuse going super nova should not affect Earth except for giving us a spectacular light show.
Dark Sky viewing starts the 13th and goes through the 25th.
Viewing Nights for the Odyssey Astronomy Club are Saturday the 15th and Saturday the 22nd. As always, anyone is welcome to attend the viewing sessions, but it is requested that you call to let us know that you plan to attend and to get driving instructions.
Sam Noble Lectures:
Feb 27 – Exploring the Dark Side of the Universe – Dr. Howard Baer, OU
March 24 – Assessing the Climate of Climate Change – Dr. Kevin Koesel
April 30 – A Conversation with Charles Darwin – Dr. Stan Rice (in character)
Note: A .pdf copy of the event poster is available upon request at the email address provided below.
For more information about Ten Acre Observatory, the Odyssey Astronomy Club or to make an appointment to come out for a visit, contact us at 405-899-4016 (leave a message) or email us at: [email protected] A visit to the observatory and the use of our equipment and facilities is always FREE.