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Sky Report - February 2014

Brightest Winter Stars Peak in the Southern Evening Sky, Full Moon on Valentine's Day

Seen all through February – The prominent planet Jupiter is the brightest point in the southern evening sky. Notice that Jupiter shines steadily, not twinkling as the night stars. Binoculars held steadily may allow you to see Jupiter's large moons, seen as tiny stars near the planet. Below and the right of Jupiter is the star group Orion with his three star belt. Orion's bright stars form a tall rectangle with its two brightest stars diagonally opposite to each other. On the top left of the rectangle is pinkish Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star. On the lower right is white-blue Rigel, Orion's brightest star. In the middle of the rectangle is Orion's belt of three stars in a row. This belt points down and left to Sirius, the nightest's brightest star. The belt points up and right to Aldebaran, a bright orange star in Taurus, the Bull. Near the top of the evening sky is Capella, a bright golden star.

The Big Dipper is easily seen in the North Northeast, with its 3 star handle below and its 4 star scoop on top. The two top stars in the scoop point left to the North Star, a modest star half way up in the North. These same two stars point right to the sickle of Leo. This sickle also resembles a coat hanger or a backward's question mark. On the right end of the sickle is Regulus, Leo's brightest stars. Regulus nearly lies along the sun's path and is often visited by the moon and planets.

Early February Sights – In late January, the moon swung from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On February 1st, you can spot a razor sharp crescent moon suspended over the planet Mercury. On Thursday, February 6th, the evening moon has grown to half full in the southwestern sky. This is the best moon shape to see the moon's craters through binoculars held steadily. The moon appears near the planet Jupiter on the evening of February 10th.

Mid February Sights – On February 12th, the planet Venus is at its brightest in the eastern dawn, rising more than two hours ahead of the sun. The moon is full on the evening of February 14th. Just as other winter full moons, this full moon shines for more than 12 hours. Late in the evenings on February 18th and 19th, the gibbous (shrinking) moon appears near the planet Mars in the eastern sky.

Late February Sights – On the morning of February 22nd, a half full moon appears in the southern dawn. At dawn on February 26th, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Venus in the southeastern dawn. On the next morning, the moon appears near the planet Saturn. On February 28th a narrow crescent moon and the planet Mercury may be seen low in the 6:20 a.m. eastern dawn.

Frostburg State's new technology center called the CCIT has most of its outer walls in place. The building will likely be opening in the spring of 2014. It features an auditorium called the Multi-Media Center or MLC, which includes a digital planetarium projector. There will be resumption of our Sunday Public Planetarium programs, featuring a review of the past week's weather, the current night sky sights and a half hour feature. Sunday Tours of the Science Discovery Center will also be available to the interested public.

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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