Dark Skies February Update

6 years 6 months ago

The attached sky chart shows the sky for around 8.00pm mid February, and at long last, we have a planet visible in the evening skies as Jupiter is just appearing over the eastern horizon around mid evening,

Binoculars will easily show the four brightest satellites in Jupiter's family of around 67 moons. With telescopes, you'll start to see some of the cloud belts that make up the "surface" of this gas giant. It is so far from the sun that the planet takes over 11 years to complete one orbit, but is so large that it would take over 1,300 Earths to make a Jupiter sized body. It spins rapidly on its axis too: one Jupiter day is only a shade under 10 hours long at the equator, and to put that in perspective, it means that if you could stand on the top of the Jovian equatorial cloud belts, you'd be moving at some 7.5 miles per second. Phew!!!!

The morning skies are still where rest of the naked eye planets are to be found. Venus is dropping back towards the morning twilight glow, but from the 1st until around the 15th of February, Mercury makes a fleeting appearance in the dawn skies. It will never be far from the sun's glow, but it does mean that for a couple of weeks early in the month, you can see in the morning twilight all of the five "naked eye" planets. See the February sky strip for identification.

This month there are no major meteor showers on show, just the usual odd sporadics that get swept up by the Earth, having their momentary "blaze of glory", burning up in our atmosphere.

On the brighter side, we do have two comets visible at the moment although both are telescopic or binocular objects. Comet Catalina is high overhead during the month but fading slowly in brightness and over towards Jupiter. Comet Ikeya-Murakami may brighten enough to be visible in binoculars by the end of the month. Fingers crossed on that one! Again, a chart is shown with the comet's position plotted for the month of February.

Best wishes and clear skies to all!