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Here is a quick look at what’s happening astronomically in February 2014

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February is named after the Latin term februum, meaning purification. February was originally the last month of the calendar. It became the second around 450 BC. February is the intercalary month; the month when leap days, weeks or months are added to seasonally adjust the calendar or sync a calendar to moon phases.

Moon:

  • New Moon: No New Moon this month
  • First Quarter Moon: February 6
  • Farthest from Earth: February 12 (252,421 miles)
  • Full Moon: February 14
  • Last Quarter Moon: February 22
  • Closest to Earth: February 27 (223,967 miles super-size Moon)

Planets Visible:

  • Early Evening:
    • Mercury: Look west just after sunset February 1-7
    • Jupiter: look east for a very bright star 45 degrees above the horizon; almost overhead by end of the month.
  • Morning before sunrise:

o Venus will be visible on the southeastern horizon all month
o Saturn will be visible to the south with a bright Mars to Saturn’s right. Both planets move to the southwest by month’s end
o Mars is the very bright star dominating the southwest sky. Below Mars is the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. Saturn is left of the pair.

Sun:

  • February 11: The equation of time is at its minimum. Sundials will be 14 minutes slow. This is related to that figure-eight thingy (called an analemma) you see on globes in the Pacific Ocean.
  • February 16: The Sun enters the astronomical constellation Aquarius
  • February 18: The Sun enters the astrological sign Pisces

Earth:

  • Feb 2: Ground Hog Day; Ground Hog Day is a cross-quarter day. Cross-quarter days happen mid-season or midway between the solstices and equinoxes. Other cross-quarter days are Halloween, May Day (in the US Memorial Day) and Lammas Day (August 1). These days mark the time when seasonal changes start to become noticeable. After Ground Hog Day we can expect more spring like weather than winter weather. These “holidays” are pagan in origin, and have a fascinating history.

Meteors:

  • No significant showers this month

Special Events:

  • February 1: Look for Mercury below a thin crescent in in the west. The best time to look is around 5:50pm. Mercury, the most difficult of the visible planets to spot, will set shortly after.
  • February 7: The Moon (overhead) is next to the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus.
  • February 8: Chamberlin Observatory Open House weather permitting. The observatory’s 20” telescope and telescopes belonging to members of the Denver Astronomical Society will be available for viewing. Click here for more information.
  • February 10: The Moon is just below Jupiter. Below the Moon is the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor. To the right of the Moon is Betelgeuse (beetle juice) in Orion. To the left of Jupiter are the stars Castor (upper) and Pollux (lower), the Gemini twins.
  • February 15: Summer Solstice on Mars
  • February 19 early morning before sunrise: The Moon will be very close to the star Spica and Mars.
  • February 21-22 early morning before sunrise: The Moon will be close to Saturn
  • February 25-26 early morning before sunrise: The Moon is next by Venus in the east.

Historical Trivia:

  • February 7, 1984 – First untethered spacewalk by Bruce McCandless II.
  • February 15, 1564 – Galileo Galilei is born in Pisa, Italy.

Wishing you clear skies

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