February, 2017 Programs

Winter Constellations — The mythology and science behind star patterns in the Winter sky above Lincoln.  Running time:  20 minutes

Sky Shorts and Trailers —     The latest NASA and JPL short programs and a trailer for the coming Solar Total Eclipse.  Running time:  14 minutes.

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What we’re looking at through the observatory’s telescopes in February

Planets:

Venus is high in the southwest after sunset,  at magnitude -4.8, so bright that, if you know where to look for it, you can see it in broad daylight.   Venus is waning to a very thin crescent (just 18% lit at the end of the month), but at the same time, it is getting closer to us and growing in apparent size.  So, surprisingly, it stays almost steady at the same brightness throughout February.

Mars is above and to the left of Venus, but unlike our sunward neighbor, Mars is getting still farther away, smaller and fainter.   Mars is now over 173 million miles away (vs. its distance at closest approach which can be a mere 35 million miles.)  Mars and Uranus will be less than a degree apart (visible together in a telescope eyepiece) on February 26.  We will try to capture this event on Saturday, February 25 public night if it’s clear.

Jupiter rises about 9:00 p.m. at the end of the month, placing it in the trees east of the observatory — a “maybe” target for the telescopes at the end of February, but a “definite” target in March.

The Moon:

There will be a deep penumbral lunar eclipse on the night of February 10.  The penumbra is the outer shadow of the moon, lighter than the dark “umbra” shadow that produces a total lunar eclipse.  You’ll see the moon look dimmer than usual, but even at maximum, its globe will not be uniformly dark.  Maximum is at 6:44 p.m. Lincoln time.   The moon on public nights this month:   2/4 — First Quarter, excellent viewing;  2/11 — Just after full moon the day before, visible but not great because few surface shadows; 2/18 — Rises too late to view;  2/25 — not visible, just before New Moon on the 26th.

Deep Sky Objects:

Galaxies, Nebulae, globular star clusters and other objects beyond the solar system will be viewed through the telescopes throughout the month, depending upon sky conditions.

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NEWS ABOUT OUR NEW TELESCOPE:   The final shipment has left California and is enroute!  The main deck is littered with crates and boxes containing telescope parts awaiting installation (watch your step in the dark!)   As soon as the last ones arrive, we’ll start to install, which probably means that the new scope will see First Light before the end of February.  WATCH THIS SPACE FOR THE ANNOUNCEMENT!