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Monthly Sky Report - February 2006

Getting Directions
To find the planets, bright stars and groups, you need to know the compass directions where you watch the sky. Lacking a compass, you can use the sun at the start, middle and end of the day. As you face the rising sun - it will be rising a little bit to the South of East. In mid day (around noon), look at your shadow which then points North. The sun will set a little bit to the South of West.

All Through February
During February, there is an average of 10.7 hours of sunlight each day. During February, the sunsets advance from a 5:35 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. Sunrises change from 7:23 p.m. early in the month to 6:50 p.m. at month's end. Stars begin to fade away an hour before sunrise and the star groups come into view an hour after sunset. In February, the brightest star group Orion is at its highest in the southern evening sky. Orion's trademark is his belt of three stars in a row . The belt points down and left to Sirius, the night's brightest star. The very bright golden star Capella is nearly overhead in the 9 p.m. evening sky. Very high on February evenings is the planet Saturn, about as bright as Capella but shining with a steady light. The Big Dipper is prominent in the North spilling its soup over the tail of Draco, the Dragon. The Dipper's two top stars point down and left to the North Star, a modest star about halfway up in the North. High in the West on February evenings is the 7 Sisters star cluster, resembling a tiny dipper. In the eastern dawn, the brilliant planet Venus is striking, rising more than 2 hours ahead of the sun.

Sights for Early February
In the first few days of February, there's a crescent moon low in the western dusk. On February 4th, the moon is half full and at its best to view the moon's craters with binoculars or telescopes. The next night, the moon appears near the planet Mars. On February 9th, the moon is nearly overhead in the evening sky, appearing near the Gemini's brightest stars, Pollux and Castor.

Sights for Mid February
The evening moon moves from the star group Cancer, Leo, Virgo and into Libra from February 10th through the 18th. The moon grows to full on February 12th, then appearing near the hook of Leo. The full moon of February is called the Snow Moon, Hunger Moon or Wolf Moon. The moon will appear near the planet Saturn on February 10th and 11th. The planet Mercury begins to climb into the western dusk, setting more than an hour after the sun.

Sights for Late February
The moon has moved into the early morning sky, allowing better viewing of the fainter evening sights. On February 20th, the moon appears near the bright planet Jupiter in the southeastern dawn. On February 23rd and 24th, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Venus low in the eastern dawn. On the last day of February, a slender crescent moon can be seen low in the western dusk, below and to the left of the planet Mercury. Mercury reaches its greatest height in the western dusk on February 23rd. At the end of February, the bright planet Jupiter rises in the East before midnight.

Astronomy Activities
The Cumberland Astronomy Club will have their meeting on Friday, February 17th at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. All interested sky gazers are welcome.

The featured February program at the Frostburg State Planetarium is "A Quick and Easy Intro to the Moon" with free Sunday showings at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Planetarium is just off the front lobby of Tawes Hall in mid campus with convenient free parking. There will be a free 2006 sky calendar available to visitors at the Sunday Planetarium programs. Call the Frostburg State Planetarium at (301) 687-4270 and press 4 to receive a free planetarium brochure which includes a map of how to reach the planetarium.









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