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February 2010
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This tool displays the approximate Moon phases for a given month(images are close approximations). For official phase times and dates for this month and past months are available from the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Astronomical Online Glossary

Download this month's sky map! is our favorite monthly skymap provider. Download either the Northern hemisphere, Equatorial, or Southern Hemisphere sky map so you can follow along with our viewing sessions. Creator: Kym Thalassoudis

Southern Hemisphere Additional Information

As Astronomy a Go Go! finds its home in the higher Northern latitudes those of you who live south of the equator will benefit from these two Southern Hemisphere sites: Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand's Southern Hemisphere Calendar RASNZ site (absolutely outstanding) and Southern Sky Watch.


Planets for February 2010

Mars image courtesy of my friend Gianluca Masi at the "Virtual Telescope - Bellatrix Observatory" in Italy! Follow him on Facebook!

  • Mercury- Southern Hemisphere views have a better chance of catching Mercury, in the morning sky on the ESE horizon, as it sinks away into the dawn twilight during February. Mercury is bracketed between (and the same color as) Antares far to its upper right and Altair far to its upper left. -0.1 mag (1st) to -0.3 (21st)
  • Venus- In the glare of the Sun as it enters the evening sky this month. Just after sunset look low (no lower!) on the western horizon and with binoculars (AFTER the sun has set completely) see if you can see both Jupiter and Venus -4.0 mag (1st) to -4.0 mag (21st)
  • Mars- Fantastic! In Cancer all month. Mar's northern hemisphere is tipped towards us and with dark skies and good optics you can expect some spectacular views. The image of Mars above was taken just this evening! (not in my rainy Seattle but in clear and cold Italy! -1.3 mag (1st) to -0.8 mag (21st)
  • Jupiter- All but gone from the sky as it continues to sink towards the Sun (the Sun is actually the one doing all of the moving in this case) Early in the month try and catch in LOW on the horizon after the Sun sets (see Venus). On the 16th Jupiter is .5 degrees N of Venus. Conjunction with the Sun on the 28th. -2.0 mag (1st) to -2.0 mag (21st)
  • Saturn- Rises mid-evening is in the arms of Virgo all month. The rings continue to open with clear spaces, on the sides, now visible in small scopes and binoculars. 0.7 mag (1st) to 0.7 mag (21st)
  • Uranus- In Pisces just to the south of the 'circlet' vanishes into the glare of the Sun by mid-month. 5.9 mag (1st) to 5.9 mag (21st)
  • Neptune- In Capricorn is in conjunction with the Sun on the 14th of this month 8.0 mag (1st) to 8.0 mag (21st)

Astronomical Highlights for February 2010

Days and Times in UT: (help with time)Observations are for 8 pm for Northern Hemisphere and 10 pm for the Southern Hemisphere. Today's sunrise and sunset times or plan ahead using the US Naval Observatory Website

Occultation information can be found at the IOTA website!

Day    Event
2 - Zodiacal lights visible in Northern latitudes in W after evening twilight for next 2 weeks
  - Comet C/2007 Q3 (Siding Spring) Closest Approach To Earth (2.193 AU)
5 - Last Quarter Moon
7 - Mars 3 degrees N of M44 (Praesepe or Beehive Cluster) great binocular pairing!
  - Antares 1.1 deg S of the Moon possible occultation (SW Alaska)
8 - Alpha Centaurids meteor shower. Favorable southern meteor shower this a waning Moon won't interfere. Best in the pre-dawn sky.
12 - Mercury 2 deg south of the Moon
13 - Moon at apogee (406540 km)
14 - New Moon (2:51 UT)
  - Neptune in conjunction with the Sun
  - Moon, Jupiter and Venus all together in the western sky after sunset. Only 9 deg from the Sun! Use caution!
15-16 - Between the evenings of February 16th and 17th, Vesta threads the gap between Gamma Leonis (magnitude 2.5) and 40 Leonis (magnitude 4.8), which is located 22 arcminutes to Gamma’s south. This familiar binocular pair will have a faint new interloper! Watch the asteroid’s progress from night to night
18 - Vesta at opposition in Leo (finder chart)
21 - Moon 0.1 deg S of M45 (Pleiades) possible occultation
22 - First Quarter Moon
24 - Moon 0.7 deg N of M35 (Gemini)
26 - Mars 0.7 deg N of Moon (waxing gibbous)
27 - Moon at perigee (357829 km) Large tides (Alice kayaking in Baja!)
28 - Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun
  - Full Moon (16:38 UT)

Date information courtesy of: RASC Observer's Handbook,, Astronomical Calendar 2009, CalSky, sunrise and sunset times for your home*Comparative lengths of day and night

Monthly Messier*

This month highlights 10 messier objects, most are within reach of binoculars, and over half can be seen with the naked eye

M1 - The Crab nebula is a supernova remnant in Taurus. It is a hazy patch in small telescopes, large scopes can resolve some detail. It is difficult but possible to see in binoculars in dark skies and with some experience (you know what you are looking for).
M45 - The Pleides are a large open cluster in Taurus. Easy to resolve six stars naked eye. Binoculars provide the best view. Large telescopes can show some nebulosity.
M35, M37, M36, and M38 - A series of open clusters in the winter milky way. M35 is in Gemini, the others are in Auriga. All can be seen naked eye as faint fuzzy stars, binoculars reveal fuzzy patches, low power telescopes can resolve these rich clusters.
M42, M43 - M42 is the great Orion Nebula. It can be seen as small fuzzy patch naked eye. Binoculars show some detail, and the view is superb in most any scope. M43 is a small region of nebulosity next to M42, and probably requires the use of a telescope to view. Use low to moderate powers for the best view of this pair.
M78 - A small emission nebula in Orion, a tough binocular object. Best viewed in a telescope at moderate powers.
M79 - One of the smallest and dimmest globular clusters in the catalog. A tough binocular object in Lepus, best viewed in a telescope at moderate powers.

From the Astronomical Connection and the Moncton Center in Canada

From the Tony Cecce, Corning, NY - Twelve Month Tour of The Messier Catalog

Bright(er) Comets for February 2010

More comet information at Seiichi Yoshida's comet website. Also checkout Gary Kronk's comet and meteor pagesSkyhound Comet pages

Historical and Current Events

...Did you know? Mark has developed his own website so let's all trot on over and see the pages of wonderful history he has for us this month!

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Music B.D. Lenz -"Lazy Bones", Jody Gnant-"Me Who Changed", Jacky and Strings-"Rosa Maria"

Great Astronomy Activities!

Globe at Night

Help measure light pollution by gazing at Orion...what could be better than star gazing for Science! Find all the tools you need at their website Globe at Night.

Citizen Sky

For those in Northern Hemisphere, Capella, the "She Goat" in Aurigae, is circumpolar. At my 47 deg North, Capella disappears behind the tree line, and into the light polluted horizon, but she pops up in a few hours and is easy to find. Also easy to find are epsilon Aurigae (al Maaz the Billy Goat) and "The Kids" which make a small, long, triangle of stars just to the Southwest of Capella.

For the next 21 months Epsilon Aurigae, usually the brightest of the trio, will start behaving quite differently than it has for the past 27 years. Epsilon Aurigae is a type of variable star called an eclipsing binary. Epsilon Aurigae and some unknown dark partner, rotate around a common center of mass and every 27 years that dark companion eclipses the giant F-type star. August marks the anticipated beginning for that eclipse which will last for 714 days, dimming from 3.0 mag to about half of its brightness.

So why am I calling this a great astronomy activity? Epsilon Aurigae has some definite quirks and more eyes are needed to help scientist figure out what Epsilon Aurigae's invisible partner really is! We need help...WE NEED YOU!! Anyone can participate; we need people to observe epsilon Aurigae, folks to look at the data for quirks, patterns, or voids, artist to help present the data to the public, friends willing to get the word out to others! To find out more visit:

Direct download: AAGG_sky_tour_Feb_2010.mp3
Category:Sky Tours -- posted at: 2:55 PM