Heads UP! for February 2019

We start today with a new moon, and we’ll wait a few days for the banana moon to appear and ripen.  In the meantime. . .

The early morning sky looks like someone pulled the fire alarm.  Jupiter is soaring out to the upper right of Venus bailing to the exit to the lower left.  Saturn is staggering in from the lower left, as if bewildered.  It’s all happening low in the southeastern sky, to the right of where the sun will rise.  Folks further south will have a better view of the proceedings.  The sunrise time will keep moving later, more rapidly as the month progresses, so it’s a good idea to check this scene out while you’re still starting your day in the dark.

The best evenings to see the International Space Station flying over the tri-state area will be on the 7th and the 8th.  The ISS will appear to pass almost overhead on those dates.  On the 10th, the ISS will pass near the Moon and Mars just before 6pm.  The sky will be pretty bright at that time.  Get out early and find our Moon, then Mars, then watch that area for the ISS.  That’s likely to be the best strategy for stalking the station that night.  Go to heavens-above.com for a full list of sightings and to get details on the path the ISS will take through our evening twilight skies. The evening passes end on the 12th.  The ISS joins the morning fun starting the 20th

The International Space Station sails past Mars and the Moon on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 10th, just before 6pm EST.

Mars still stands high in the evening sky, like a party guest that has nothing much to offer (it’s hard to see any details in most of our telescopes), but refuses to leave.  The Moon comes by on the 10th to remind Mars of better days.  See how early after sunset you can find Mars with our Moon as a pointer.  Mars makes itself useful by passing a degree from Uranus on the 13th.  Uranus appears about half the width of Mars in a telescope and the color contrast – reddish/blueish – could be very nice.

Mercury doesn’t get far from the Sun, but in contrast to the shallow sky in the morning, its trip up from the horizon is almost vertical.  It’ll be Mercury’s best evening sighting for the year for the northern hemisphere.  Greatest elongation is on the 26th at 18 degrees east of (following) the Sun.  After that, Mercury appears to tail off the right as it swings back toward the solar glare.  Get a preview of Mercury in the SOHO spacecraft’s C3 view now through the 9th.

More about the morning – From the 17th though the 20th, Saturn tries to recreate the super sight of January’s view of Jupiter with Venus.  Saturn is 2½ magnitudes dimmer than Jupiter, so the Saturn/Venus conjunction will not be quite as spectacular as Jupiter/Venus was.  Our Moon, Venus and Saturn group up in the morning sky in early March. In the meantime, see if you can get a selfie with the Jupiter/Venus/Saturn planetary arc, especially later in the month.  

Due to the way the IAU set the boundaries of the constellations, Jupiter is not in a zodiac constellation this year – it’ll be in Ophiuchus (I pronounce it ‘that harder-to-see constellation above Scorpius’).

Make sure you get a look at the superest Moon of 2019!  The closest Full Moon of the year occurs on the 19th just four hours after the closest lunar perigee of the year about 5am.  This should make for some great photos of the setting Moon that morning.

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