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Sky Report -February 2009

Planets Line Up at Dawn,  Dwarf Planet Closest and  Crescent Moon Lines Up With Venus

In early February, we are half way through winter.  The evening moon appears half full on February 2nd, Groundhog Day. The moon then offers the best views of its craters and mountain ranges through binoculars. The moon grows to full on February 9th. Just as other winter full moons, this moon has a high track across the night sky, appearing in the star group Cancer.  On the next night, the moon will appear near the bright star Regulus of Leo. On February 11th and 12th, the moon will appear near the bright planet Saturn. You can tell a planet from a star by its steady light.  

On February 13th, the innermost planet Mercury reaches its greatest angle from the sun, rising about an hour before the 7:10 a.m. sunrise and appearing in western Sagittarius. February 13th is also a Friday; in 2009, we have three Friday the 13th – February, March and November. On February 22nd and 23rd, the crescent moon appears near the planets Mars and Jupiter seen low in the 6:20 a.m. East Southeast.

On February 25th, the dwarf planet Ceres will be closer to the Earth than it has been in 1876. This dwarf planet will then be 147 million miles away, shining in the star group Leo. Ceres was reclassified as a Dwarf Planet in 2006, owing to its spherical shape and orbit about the sun. Formerly Ceres was the largest asteroid with a diameter of about 600 miles. To see Ceres, you need a pair of binoculars and look 3 degrees Northwest of the star Zosma in Leo for a 7th magnitude point of light.

On February 27th  and 28th, the crescent moon will appear near the brilliant planet Venus in the Southwestern dawn.

Featured at the Frostburg State Planetarium in February will be “Tropical Skies” with free planetarium programs each Sunday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Planetarium is in Tawes 302, just inside the front lobby that faces the Compton Science Center.  To request a  Planetarium/Science Museum bookmark, please call (301) 687-7799 and leave your name and mailing address.   

By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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