In The Sky This Month – February 2011

This feature highlights a number of meteor showers, comets and asteroids which are visible during the month of February 2011.

February 2011 Highlights
* Jupiter rules the evening sky, while...
* Saturn becomes visible later in the evening...
* Venus continues to dominate the early morning sky.

Note: If anyone has pictures or observations of these objects/events and want to share them with my readers, send them to the Transient Sky at <transientsky1@yahoo.com>.

Planets

Moon - The table below lists important lunar dates for the month, including the phases of the Moon and nights of lunar-planetary and lunar-stellar conjunctions.

Feb 1 - Moon 3.5° from Mercury
Feb 3 - New Moon
Feb 7 - Moon 6° from Jupiter and Uranus
Feb 11 - First Quarter Moon
Feb 11 - Moon 1.4° from Pleiades
Feb 12 - Moon 7° from bright star Aldebaran
Feb 15 - Moon 9° from bright star Pollux
Feb 16 - Moon 4° from Beehive Cluster
Feb 18 - Full Moon 5° from bright star Regulus
Feb 21 - Moon 7.5° from Saturn and 2.6° from bright star Spica
Feb 24 - Third Quarter Moon
Feb 25 - Moon 3° from bright star Antares

Jupiter - The ‘King of the Planets’ continues its reign as the uncontested ‘King of the Evening Sky’ at magnitude -2.1. Located on the Pisces/Aquarius border, Jupiter is easy to find in the southwest as it gets dark.

Feb 7 - Moon 6° from Jupiter

Saturn – Saturn rises during the late hours of the evening. Located in Virgo, the ringed planet is a close match in brightness (mag +0.6) to Spica, the brightest star in Virgo (mag +1.0). Saturn spends the entire month within 8-9° of Spica.

Feb 21 - Moon 7.5° from Saturn

Venus – After passing through inferior conjunction in late October , Venus is now the dominant sight just before dawn. On Feb 1, Venus rises almost 3 hours before the Sun in the eastern sky though this drops to 2 hours over the course of the month. Unlike this year’s evening apparition which was poorly placed, Venus’ current stay in the morning sky will be a good one for northern observers. Through a telescope it currently looks like a brilliant ‘half moon’.

Mercury and Mars – Too close to the Sun for observation.

Meteors

Meteor activity is at a seasonal minimum in February. The year is usually split in 2 with January through June having low rates with few major showers while July through December have high rates with many major showers.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are Sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During February mornings, 10-12 or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Major Meteor Showers

None this month…

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors. Starting this month, info on most of the minor showers will be provided on a weekly basis by Robert Lunsford’s Meteor Activity Outlook.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the following sites: Wayne Hally’s and Mark Davis’s NAMN Notes, and the International Meteor Organization’s 2010 Meteor Shower Calendar.

Comets

Naked Eye Comets (V < 6.0)

None this month…

Binocular Comets (V = 6.0 – 8.0)

None this month…

Small Telescope Comets (V = 8.0 – 10.0)

None

Asteroids

Binocular and Small Telescope Asteroids (V < 9.0)

(7) Iris

Iris is an inner Main-Belt asteroid that can occasionally get as bright as any asteroid. This year, Iris did not get as bright but was still become a binocular object at opposition on January 24 at magnitude 7.9. This month it is located in the constellation of Cancer a few degrees to the southwest of the Beehive Cluster. It starts the month at magnitude 8.1, but fades to 8.9 by the end of the month.

With a size of 240 x 200 x 200 km, Iris is the 5th largest stoney S-type asteroid. It was discovered in 1847 by John Russel Hind, the 1st of 10 asteroids he discovered.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Finder chart for Iris from Heavens Above.

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About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

One Response to In The Sky This Month – February 2011

  1. katarinahurry says:

    The Vatican went to Denmark for the first time!

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