In The Sky This Month – February 2009

This feature highlights a number of meteor showers, comets and asteroids which are visible during the month of February 2009. This month finds Venus at its best in 8 years. Also Comet Lulin should continue to brighten and perhaps approach naked eye brightness.

Note: If anyone has pictures or observations of these objects/events and want to share them, send me a comment. I’ll post them here.

Planets

Venus the highlight of the month of February. Located about 30-40 degrees above the southwest horizon, Venus is the brightest “star” in the sky for the first few hours of the night. Venus is at maximum height at the beginning of the month. As the month progresses, it will appear slightly lower in the sky. On February 20, it will be at its brightest (mag -4.6). Through a telescope, Venus appears like a brilliant less than half moon. The Moon will pass within 1.2 degrees of Venus on the night of the 29th.

Saturn continues to rise earlier and brighten as it approaches its March 8 opposition. Opposition is when a planet (or comet or asteroid) is located opposite the direction of the Sun. On this date, Saturn will be closest to Earth and at its brightest. It rises between 8 and 9pm at the start of the month. By the end of the month, Saturn will rise just after the end of evening twilight. All month long, it is highest in the sky around midnight.

Jupiter, Mars and Mercury are all located near each other low in the early morning sky. From the Northern Hemisphere, everything happens very close to the horizon so any obstructions (trees, buildings, etc.) could hid the action. The view is much better from the Southern Hemisphere.

Mercury is the only one of the three that is visible at the start of the month. It is highest on Feb 6-7. As it starts to sink back towards the horizon, Mars and Jupiter rise to meet it. On Feb 24 all three planets are located within 4 degrees of each other. The trio may be easier to find a few days earlier (Feb 22/23) when the crescent moon will be nearby.

Meteors

The month of January experiences no major showers and only a few minor ones.

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 November, six (6) or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Major Meteor Showers

None.

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors.

Alpha Centaurids (ACE)

This minor shower is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere and in fact is not above the southern horizon for most of North America and Europe. The Alpha Centaurids appear to radiate from a point near the star Alpha Centauri, hence the name Alpha Centaurids. If that star sounds familiar, it is the nearest stellar (star) system to the Sun. The meteors don’t actually come from Alpha Centauri, they come from an unknown comet. The shower is part of a complex of southern showers that are active from November through March. The Puppid/Velids of December are also part of this complex.

The shower is visible from January 28 to February 21 with a peak on February 7. For Southern Hemisphere observers, rates usually reach 5-7 per hour. Short hour-long outbursts have been reported in the past.

Delta Leonids (DLE)

The Delta Leonids are another minor shower with a period of activity from February 15 to March 10. Near its February 25 peak, rates may reach a paltry 2 per hour.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the following sites: Robert Lunsford’s Meteor Activity Outlook, Wayne Hally’s and Mark Davis’s NAMN Notes, and the International Meteor Organization’s 2008 Meteor Shower Calendar.

Comets

Naked Eye Comets (V < 6.0)

Comet Lulin may become brighter than magnitude 6 this month. More on this comet can be found in the next section.

Binocular Comets (V < 8.0)

Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin)

Comet Lulin was discovered by the Lulin Sky Survey in Taiwan on 2007 July 11. At the time the comet was located beyond the orbit of Jupiter. The comet will be closest to the Sun on 2009 January 10 at 1.21 AU from the Sun. It will be closest to Earth in late-February when it will be only 0.41 AU from us.

The comet is currently around magnitude 6.8 which makes it an easy object for binoculars and small telescopes from a dark sky. Unfortunately this comet is not brightening as rapidly as expected. Rather than reaching 4th magnitude at  the end of the month, 5th magnitude may be more likely. Still this makes the comet a very nice object in binoculars and small telescopes. It may even be seen with the naked eye from very dark locations.

The comet starts the month low in the southeast before dawn in the middle of Libra. Due to its retrograde orbit, the comet is moving in almost the exact opposite direction as the Earth. As a result, it is rapidly moving to the west every night. Over the course of the month, Lulin will cross half of Libra, all of Virgo and most of Leo. On the 16th, it will be located a few degrees north of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. On the 23rd, it will be a few degrees south of Saturn and on the 28th it will be within a few degrees of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

A finder chart for Comet Lulin can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Small Telescope Comets (V < 10.0)

Comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen)

This comet was discovered over 2 years ago on 2006 November 18 by Eric Christensen of the Catalina Sky Survey north of Tucson. At the time the comet was located at 8.7 AU from the Sun which is nearly the distance of Saturn. The comet continues to move closer to the Sun and Earth and is currently 3.8 AU from the Sun and 3.4 AU from the Earth.

The comet is currently around magnitude 9.7 and will slowly brighten during the month.  It will be traveling south through the constellation of Lacerta and is nicely positioned for early evening observing. I was able to observe the comet visually with my backyard 12″ reflecting telescope in November. Being small and condensed, the comet was fairly easy to see.

The comet will continue to brighten as it approaches perihelion at a still rather distant 3.12 AU from the Sun on 2009 July 6. At the time, the comet will be 8th magnitude and visible in many smaller backyard telescopes and even binoculars from dark sites. Christensen should remain bright enough to see in modest sized backyard telescopes for all of 2009.

A finder chart for Comet Christensen can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet C/2006 OF2 (Broughton)

Similar to Comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen), C/2006 OF2 (Broughton) is another intrinsically bright comet with a large perihelion distance. It was the 2nd comet discovered by amateur astronomer John Broughton of Queensland, Australia. He first saw it on 2006 July 17 with a CCD-equipped 0.25-m telescope. At first, no cometary activity was detected and the object was classified as an asteroid. In late September of 2006, I was able to find evidence of cometary activity on images taken with the University of Arizona 1.54-m and the object was reclassified as a comet.

Comet Broughton passed perihelion on 2008 September 15 at a distance of 2.43 AU from the Sun. Based on its prior brightness behavior, it was not expected to be brighter than 10th magnitude. In the past few weeks, the comet has experienced a minor outburst in brightness. At its current magnitude of 9.8, the comet can be seen in large backyard telescopes. Moving south through the constellation of Auriga, the comet should fade as it moves away from both the Sun and Earth.

A finder chart for Comet Broughten can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Comet 144P/Kushida

Comet Kushida was discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Yoshio Kushida back on 1994 January 8. With an orbital period of 7.6 years, this year marks its 3rd appearance since discovery.

The comet was not expected to get brighter than magnitude 10 or 11 but recently observers have estimated it is as bright as magnitude 8.8. With perihelion this January 26 at 1.44 AU from the Sun, the comet may brighten a little more over the next few weeks. The comet starts the month within the large Hyades open star cluster in Taurus. It will slowly move to the east during the month.

A finder chart for Comet Kushida can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Asteroids

Binocular and Small Telescope Asteroids (V < 10.0)

(1) Ceres

Ceres is the biggest asteroid in the Main Belt with a diameter of 585 miles or 975 km. It is so big that it is now considered a Dwarf Planet. Classified as a carbonaceous (carbon-rich) Cg-type asteroid, there are suggestions that it may be rich in volatile material such as water. Some even propose that an ocean exists below the surface. Ceres is one of two targets for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which is scheduled to visit it in 2015. This month Ceres is located in Leo brightening from magnitude 7.2 to 6.9. It reaches its brightest at opposition on February 25.

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 Ceres from Heavens Above.

(2) Pallas

Pallas is also a carbonaceous asteroid though with a slightly bluish B-type spectrum. Due to its high inclination (tilt of its orbit with respect to Earth’s orbit) of 34 degrees it is a difficult target for future spacecraft missions. Pallas is large with dimensions of 350x334x301 miles or 582x556x501 km. This month it moves through the far southern constellations of Eridanus and Lepus. It fades from  magnitude 8.2 to 8.4 over the course of the month.

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 Pallas from Heavens Above.

(4) Vesta

Though not as large as Ceres, Vesta is more reflective making it the brightest asteroid in the Main Belt. Vesta is peculiar in that it appears to have evidence of volcanism on its surface. Similar to the Moon, Vesta may be covered with large expanses of frozen lava flows. It is classified as a V-type asteroid and is the only large asteroid with this classification. Many of the smaller V-type asteroids are chips of Vesta blasted off it by past asteroid and comet impacts. Vesta is similar in size to Pallas with dimensions of 347x336x275 miles or 578×560×458 km. Vesta will also be visited by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which will arrive in 2010. On October 30, Vesta was at opposition (directly opposite from the Sun in the sky) and at its brightest. This month Vesta is an evening object moving just north of the “head” of Cetus. It will fade from magnitude 8.1 to 8.3.

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 Vesta from Heavens Above.

(27) Euterpe

Euterpe was the 27th asteroid discovered when it was first seen in 1853. It is an S-type asteroid with a stoney or silicate composition. With a diameter of 58 miles (96 km) it is much smaller than Ceres, Pallas or Vesta. The reason it can get as bright as them is due to its orbit which brings it closer to the Sun and Earth. This month Euterpe will be roughly 1 AU from Earth and 2 AU from the Sun.

This month Euterpe is located in Cancer. It starts the month at magnitude 8.9 and is at its brightest at opposition on February 4 at magnitude 8.8. By the end of the month, it will have faded to 9.6.

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 Euterpe from Heavens Above.

(29) Amphitrite

Discovered in 1854, Amphitrite was the 29th asteroid to be discovered. Similar to Euterpe, Amphitrite is also a stoney S-type asteroid. With an average diameter of  127 miles (212 km) it is bigger than Euterpe though its further distance from the Earth and Sun keeps it from getting as bright.

Ampitrite is located in Leo all month and will brighten from magnitude 10.2 to 9.7. It will reach its brightest at opposition on March 22 at magnitude 9.1.

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

82 Responses to In The Sky This Month – February 2009

  1. holly says:

    What did I just see at 7:30 pm tonight as I was coming off the Fell Street exit? It was so close! I was taken aback. It went right over me. Bright white and large.

  2. Erin Giuliano says:

    My husband and I were driving in Lincoln, NH on Saturday night around 10:30 pm January 31st when we saw a bright orange ball of light falling towards earth at a high speed. It then became a white light and was gone. We couldn’t believe our eyes! Could it have been a meteor hitting the atmosphere? It was amazing!

  3. Kate Stewart says:

    On the night of February 2, 2009 around 10:30(?) in S.E. Wisconsin, my husband and I saw through the window in our house a large “shooting star” heading due east. I can’t tell you exactly how long it lasted since it had only come into view from behind our house, but what we saw lasted about two to three seconds. It started as white with green/blue edges and a tail that was a tad yellow-orange and then the whole thing turned white and yellow and significantly smaller then just flew into the distance and disappeared. I was expecting an explosion when it went behind the house next door. I even thought it was an airplane crashing. If my hubby hadn’t seen it I would have thought I was dreaming. AMAZING sight!!

    Did anyone else see this?

  4. Joe Jackson says:

    I saw it too. It was incredible.

  5. Nat & Steve Picton says:

    Nat & Steve Picton of S. BC- Feb 4th 2009
    – saw in S.E. sky at roughly 6:30pm it was very bright we thought it was a bright star but it is way too bright and too big it seemed to have a haze around it no distinguishing colours. Looked up on the internet it maybe Venus or Comet Lulin I know nothing about this sort of stuff but snapped a shot hopefully it will be something interesting….Cool though!

  6. joe arvizu says:

    is that bright light really venus i never seen one so bright

  7. Requin006 says:

    Venus will be that bright. If you are in the northern Hemisphere on Feb 20 it will be at its brightest. West Coast Canada at about 35° to 40° above the horizon. Show your kids!

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Requin006,

      No need to wait. Though Venus will be brightest on Feb 20, it will only be a few percent brighter than it is now. It should be very near its maximum brightness for 2-3 weeks centered on the 20th.

      – Carl

  8. Sondra says:

    February 10 at 8:40pm, I saw the biggest, brightest and fastest shooting star I’ve ever seen. It was brilliant white (no other colors) and seemed to get a just a bit larger before it reached it’s maximum speed and downward trajectory. I’m just on the outskirts of Atlanta and the sky was slightly overcast. Other stars could only be seen where there were cloud breaks. I’m wondering if anyone else in the area spotted this one.

  9. Laura McLean says:

    February 11 at 7:07pm, I saw a really big bright light in the sky. It is not moving and bigger than the biggest and brightest star in the sky. I am in Vancouver, BC Canada and I was looking to the West when I saw it! I am wondering if anyone else has seen it, or if they know what it is? I heard that two satellites collided today, maybe it’s that or a comet!

  10. Ruthie says:

    I am in Frederick, Maryland and looking out to the west saw a bright star that was moving toward the horizon about .5 inch per minute. I got my telescope out just in time to see it before it past beyond the city’s horizon. I focused on the light and it was concave towards the earth and full of color (all of the colors of the rainbow). I’m not sure what I was looking at, however it did not seem round. Maybe the trajectory, if it was a comet, made it look longer and concave?? Very exciting!

  11. tanya says:

    i am in san diego and have noticed a low bright “star” that is west northwest of me. is it venus?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Tanya,

      It might be. If it was, by far, the brightest star in the sky then it was probably Venus. At sunset, Venus is located 40 degrees up to the WSW. As it sets, it appears further and further north. By ~8-9 pm, it is very low on the horizon to the WNW.

      If it isn’t Venus, there is a bright star named Deneb (brightest star in Cygnus the Swan) that is very close to the NW horizon after twilight. It is much dimmer then Venus.

      Thanks for writing,
      – Carl

  12. Rene G says:

    I seen the bright light as well. I live in California and I seen it at 5 P.M and it lasted until 9 P.M I would also like to get more information on this. It wasn’t a star. I was thinking it was the satellites that collided as well. More info on this would be appreciated!

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Rene,

      Your description (bright “star”, sets around 9pm) is an exact match for the planet Venus. Right now Venus is as bright and high as it can get in the evening sky. It is so bright that it is many tens of times brighter than the brightest stars.

      Keep looking up,
      – Carl

  13. Josephpalazzo says:

    I was just looking at Venus a moment ago , and it is amazing…

  14. Rene G says:

    Nice! Its up again tonight Feb 13. However it disappears around 11 PM PST. Can anyone else confirm that this is Venus?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Rene,

      You are probably seeing Venus. The only question I have is when it appears to disappear. 11 pm is too late for Venus which should set between 9 and 10 pm depending on how far north you live.

      Then again there is only one super bright “star” in the evening sky every night and that’s Venus. You should be able to see it every night over the next month. It will slowly appear lower in the sky every night as well.

      – Carl

  15. joel says:

    feb 13 about 10 pm or so I saw a fireball in the southeastern sky over peebles ohio. saw it for about 3 seconds and it was bright orange and super close and fast then it dissappered for a second the reappeared and was lime green colored with a long tail till it dissappered. anyone know what it might be?

  16. lucy says:

    amazing i didnt see it but i wish i had it must have been a fantastic experience that you will never forget!!!!.

  17. Lisa Rawlinson says:

    Hi Joel,
    My husband and I both saw this “fireball” We saw it around 10 as well and we are not far from you in Huntington, WV. This was not a planet as far as I can tell from what I have been reading. I wonder if it was part of one of the satellites that had collided and was burning through our atmosphere. Any ideas from anyone else. It was beautiful, colorful and HUGE.

    Lisa in WV

  18. Humbert Alex says:

    yesterday nigth we were traveling by car in the woodlands texas (my family and I) and looked into the sky and saw some flashes I started seeing flashes of blue light through the clouds in almost all the sky, perfectly-timed about 1 second apart for about 5 seconds it was in 2 times. Then, suddenly an a central area of the ligthed sky appears a big limunate, lit up with blue-green light and it just stayed lit for about 5 to 10 seconds without any flickering. Does any body Know about it? can somebody explain it to me; or maybe somebody saw it? because my family got nervous

  19. Chris Curtis says:

    Hello from Auckland (NZ) in the Southern Hemisphere!

    Venus (I’m assuming) was super bright last night just above the Eastern horizon a couple of hours after sun set. Beautiful.

  20. Chris Curtis says:

    Oops, Western horizon even.

  21. Nikki & Angie says:

    We were in Ashland, KY Feb 13, about 10:00 pm we were headed west, in the sky we saw a “fireball” that was green and glowing moving very fast across the sky. It looked like a shooting star, however, it was very large with a long glowing tail. It was brighter & lasted longer than any shooting star that I have ever seen. It almost looked like an aircraft crashing, but it faded while still high in the sky. It was very similar to what #19 joel describes.

  22. Amy says:

    This morning around 11am while driving south into Denton, TX I saw a large flame moving very quickly across the sky at a downward slope. No smoke, no obvious chemical trail, and then it disappeared. I haven’t been able to find any reports on the news. Tomorrow I’ll call the UNT astronomy dept and see what they know.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Amy,

      Yes a bright daytime fireball was seen over Texas. A video can be found at the News 8 Austin webpage.
      http://www.news8austin.com/content/top_stories/default.asp?ArID=232081
      It is most likely due to a small asteroid entering the Earth’s atmosphere though a small piece of a old satellite or rocket can not be ruled out. Contrary to what the New 8 article says, it most likely had nothing to do with the 2 satellites that collided a few days ago.

      Thanks for the report,
      – Carl

  23. roseroberta says:

    I really at first thought that this must be a reflection, when I first saw it, but turned off all the lights and there it was the biggest star that I have ever seen shining out straight in front of me as I was sitting at my computer. An airplane flew just a bit above it and the light from the plane was not bigger than this star. It is huge. At least five times as large as a normal star and the only one that I really can see in the sky. Is that Venus?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Roseroberta,

      Sure sounds like Venus. The big questions are was it in the western sky and can you see it every night (assuming the weather cooperates)? If so, it was definitely Venus.

      Venus is as bright as it gets and almost as high in the sky as it can get. It will slowly appear lower and lower in the sky before rapidly dropping lower in March. By this summer, Venus will be high and bright in the eastern sky right before sunrise.

      Thanks for writing,
      – Carl

  24. Robby Ron says:

    FEB 14th,
    Live in Precott Az. On the night of the 14th I spotted what appeared to be a band of light spanning from the North to the South of the night sky.
    I noticed it was moving to the East. I called my family and we watched
    the band of light move completely accross the sky and dissappear
    to the East.
    Does anyone know what this was?

    • mmorris says:

      We saw a band of light Sept 13 in Lexington. was more East to west then moved very slowly SW to NE before we couldn’t see it anymore about 30-40 minutes. I thought it was artificial at first but wasnt. My husband said it might be a reflection making a ring (from moon, pehaps). I’d love to know!

  25. W. Mast says:

    I was at home in a small town on Vancouver Island British Colunbia. It was 6:45 pm, when I looked out the window and saw a fireball screaming through the atmosphere. It was small, & headed north west.
    Could this have been debris from the satellite collision?

  26. JR, Plano, TX says:

    I also saw the bright orange fireball yesterday in the southern sky from Plano, Tx. It was about 11am (coming home from church), I looked to the southwest and just caught enough of it to realize I wasn’t seeing things. It had a long orange tail and then went bright white and disappeared. It probably lasted 3 seconds. It reminded my of the Columbia breakup in 2003 – scary.

  27. Maria says:

    Buffalo, NY I was out walking this evening 7pm and saw bright star in the western sky, wondering if it is Venus.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Maria,

      Yep, that was Venus. It will be visible every evening till mid-March though it will be located lower in the sky by then.

      Thanks for writing,
      – Carl

  28. Mark in North Carolina says:

    I am familiar with the planets and notice Venus most every evening shortly after sunset. But last night about 8:30 pm, I saw a terrifically bright object a little further north (almost directly above where the sun sets on the autumnal and spring equinox) and what I thought to be a bit too high in the sky at that time of night for Venus. It seemed to vacillate ever so slightly. I thought at first it might be a police helicopter hovering some miles away. But over then next half hour, it dropped into the horizon and disappeared.

    I think I saw what Roseroberta saw. While I’d like to entertain the speculation my neighbors enjoy, that it is ‘something else’, I suspect it was Venus since Venus is supposed to be very bright. But it was quite a distance further north than it was a month ago and this has me wondering.

  29. joe grant says:

    Sunday, Februrary 15, 2009, around 12:30am , in East Wakefield, NH, on Lake Bellaue, I saw a bright blue glowing fireball in the sky,it appeared for only a few seconds,and left a golden con-trail, i am not quite sure what it was, did anyone else see it? Does anyone one know what it was?

  30. Mike Werop says:

    Tuseday, February 17, 9:30pm. Saw what seemed to be a “shooting star” in the southern sky above (southern Ontario). However it was unlike any shooting star i”ve seen before, in that it appeared for a longer period, and seemed to “break up” before burning out. Could this have been debris of some sort, or an asteroid?

  31. Peter Raybaud says:

    I was recently holidaying in Thailand, near to Phuket on a beach called Nai Yang

    On Sunday 8th February we were having dinner on the beach (delightful food, by the way) when, at around 9pm local time we saw what at first glance was a very bright shooting star – but it was red with a green tail and visibility lasted approx. 3 seconds as it soed across the sky.

    What did we see???

  32. Lillian Gordon says:

    I am in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska (in th middle of no where). This morning at about 1:30 AM we saw a very bright object streak across the sky, above one of the mountains. What was this? It left a trail that was bright for quite some time.
    Thanks!

  33. julie c says:

    on the evening of feb 16 my daughter and i witnissed a huge explosion of lights in the west sky of northern alberta . it happened in successions. first one flashes of brights lights and then three or four more. then nothing. twenty minutes later it happened again , the explosions appearing to have moved a bit more north on the second succession of flashes of really big lights. like a huge welding flash…..there was one light flash and one below it ………after this we noticed that the bright light to the west that we have seen every night for months was gone.
    what happened?

  34. Cole John says:

    It has to be Venus that I saw as well last nigth, the 18th around 7:30. I am in Blaine WA up on the Canadian border and it was fabluous. I too though it was some type of helicopter due to its brightness.
    What a fantastic way to begin the evening.
    I will also be on the lookout for Lulin on the 24th.

  35. Jen says:

    Im in NYC what is going on !!! Lights everywhere !!!

  36. Stephen Horton says:

    Houston Texas – low in the western sky is a bright planetary body….Venus I presume?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Most likely it is Venus. Was it seen in the evening before ~9 PM?

      – Carl

  37. Carolosa says:

    Hello, supose there was supose there was supose to be a meteor in the south today? Was there I thought I saw one but it was an airplane!

  38. John Matthews says:

    Wasilla, Alaska

    2000 hours extremely bright planet, took out my old telescope that I have not used in years. Resolved to what I believe to be Venus (direction NNW?) but almost crescent in shape. Would this be correct or is it operator error with the shape?

    Thanks-John

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi John,

      Yes, your telescope is working fine. Venus is rapidly becoming a thinner and thinner crescent as it travels between the Earth and Sun.

      The following website can produce a map of what Venus (or any of the other planets) will look like on any particular night.

      http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/diskmap.php

      Thanks for writing,
      – Carl

  39. Tom Rintelmann says:

    A relatively bright comet is approaching Earth and astronomers expect that it will be best visible in the week starting 21 February. Known officially as C/2007 N3 (Comet Lulin), it was discovered by a 19-year old university student in China in July 2007 on a photograph taken a few nights earlier at Taiwan’s Lulin Observatory. Thus apart from its intrinsic interest the comet has important political ramifications. An amatuer in Dallas TX

  40. Thanks for this post! I thought I had missed Lulin.

  41. John Rav says:

    Hi, I came here looking for info on Lulin, mainly wondering how quickly it moves and how different it would look on a long exposure photo, compared to the surrounding stars.

    While I am here, I will share my capture of a meteor/shooting star earlier this month over Zion National Park! http://www.flickr.com/photos/john_rav/3301767308/

    Also, see Venus drop behind a Volcanic plug in a 15 minute exposure here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/john_rav/3283891292/

    Thanks for all the great information you consolidate Here.

    Here

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi John,

      Would it be OK to post your images on the Transient Sky blog? Naturally any image will be posted with full credit and a link back to the original site or your own personal webpage.

      Thanks for sharing the images,
      – Carl

    • John Rav says:

      Thanks Carl, Yes you may use both of these images on the blog. thanks for asking…

      -John

  42. Shannon says:

    I live just 25 miles north of London in the UK. On the night of the 21st Feb 2009 at about 7:15pm (it was my b-day and my hubby & I were on our way to dinner) we saw a very bright light in the sky – brighter then normal stars – it was in the same spot for some time (I looked outside at about 8:20pm) and it was still there. The light was gone by 9:30. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a helicoper as there was no noise or plane as it looked stationary nad wasnot blinking. I was wondering if any of the planets were showing ‘extra bright’ or perhaps it was that comet?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Shannon,

      You were seeing the planet Venus. Right now it is at its brightest which makes it much brighter than any other planet or star. Tonight will be even better since Venus and the Moon will be very close to each other.

      Thanks for writing,
      – Carl

  43. Angela says:

    I am in Central Florida and Venus is beautiful tonight. It’s amazingly bright. Take a look.

  44. Brad ZimLaw says:

    I live in Southern California and about 6:00 PST (sunset) I was looking at the Moon with Venus shinning brightly next to it when a very fast moving object appeared a few degrees below and to the right, passed between them and then disapeared few degrees above and to the left of the Moon and Venus. The object was the same size and brightness as Venus, if it hadn’t been moving I would have been wondering why there were two Venus’ in the sky.

    Did anyone else see it? Could it have been a large asteriod passing close by?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Brad,

      Interesting observation. I’m not 100% sure what you saw.

      It could be one of two things, a bright meteor or a flaring satellite. The meteor would only have lasted a second or two. The flaring satellite would probably last longer. When I mean a flaring satellite, I mean a man-made satellite in orbit that appears to brighten when the Sun reflects off of it at the right angle. I’ve seen the Hubble Space Telescope get brighter than Venus for a few seconds as it moved across the sky.

      Hope that helps, I’ll keep an eye out for any other observations.
      – Carl

  45. Brad ZimLaw says:

    By the way it was (is still for me) 27 FEB 2009, not the 28th as the posting stamp states.

  46. izzy says:

    I sat under the stars with you tonight….. your miles away, but still so close. Amazing. Earthshaker.

  47. james mcguire says:

    from shirley solihull england i have just noticed the brightest thing in the sky i have read some of your recent posts and just wondered if venus would be visible to me from my location

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi James,

      Yes, Venus is visible from from the entire Northern Hemisphere and most of the Southern Hemisphere. Only the folks at the South Pole Station are missing out.

      Venus will get harder and harder as it moves closer to the Sun. By the end of the month, it will no longer be visible in the evening.

      Thanks for writing,
      – Carl

  48. Sharon says:

    Just saw a bright green streak in the sky in Austin, TX. Around 10:45 pm, facing West. Very bright, pretty big. Any clue what it could have been?

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Hi Sharon,

      Sounds like you saw a nice bright fireball (the technical term, I’m not kidding) for a bright meteor. I’ll let you know if more reports come in or you can check out the following page: http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/fireball_log2009.html. The page is sometimes a few days behind in updating.

      How long did it last? Was it moving fast? If it was moving fast and lasted at most a few seconds then it sounds like a normal bright meteor.

      Thanks for writing and if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask,
      – Carl

    • Natasha says:

      Hey Sharon, I also saw the light, I described it as having a blue tint, but could have been green. I saw it on my way home Sunday night the 1st around the same time. I live in Cedar Park Texas. I reported it to Kxan News, but they said there hadnt been any other reports. I was beginning to think noone else saw it. I am very curious too. Thanks

  49. Sharon says:

    Awesome, thank you! I’m so curious.

  50. Sharon says:

    Hi Carl,

    I didn’t get to see much of the trajectory, since it disappeared behind a roof. But it maybe 70 degrees above the horizon and seemed to be moving fairly slowly (slower than most meteors I’ve seen).

    Thanks for the help.

    • Carl Hergenrother says:

      Sharon,

      If you’d like, you can make submit a report of your fireball sighting to the American Meteor Society. It is a fairly easy form to fill out and doesn’t require much astronomy knowledge.

      http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/report.html

      Hopefully others saw it as well and there will be more reports.

      – Carl

  51. TGomez says:

    VENUS!! It is so gorgeous…I stare at it every night since I saw it 2 weeks ago. I can’t believe how bright and beautiful it is. I tried to take a pic w/ my phone but it does it no justice!

  52. Eileen Mccolgan says:

    On March 3rd I saw an orange light moving, in the sky, about the size of a distant star around 10:30 pm. It had a smoke trail behind it like a jet plane makes. I watched it for about a 10 to 15 sec. when it seemed to explode to the size and brightness of Venus. Then it just continued on it way, still with the smoke trail. I got my binoculars and looked at it and it had a red blinking light on it but only orange color everywhere else. Any idea what this was. I live in San Marcos Texas and I was looking South and the object was traveling from the south toward the north. Its speed was about that of a plane.

  53. Chris says:

    On March 6th around 11pm while driving North on the Florida Turnpike near West Palm Beach, I noticed a peculiar object in the sky. I noticed a bright light about 30 degrees off the horizon that appeared like a streetlight high in the sky. It appeared to be moving across the sky from West to East in relation to the stars. After a couple of seconds the object burst into a fireball and went out. I could still see it in the sky and I awoke my wife. It burst into flames another two times and I saw a piece break away. I have seen a number of meteors and this was the strangest I had ever seen. It was moving about as fast as an airplane and I was able to track it for over a minute. Curious if any one else had seen it or had an idea of what it was.

  54. james says:

    i saw this thing tonight it was like a moon it had a red glow at the front and it got darker at the back till you couldn’t see it it moved across the sky really slowly and it was 3 times the size of the moon if you have any answers please reply or email me

  55. Frank says:

    I was just browsing the internet and I came across this site (I know this is very late),I’ve just been reading the mention of a fireball in the sky around February 14th. I seen this same phenomenon from the Canary Islands as I was on holiday there. I said nothing to no one as I had found no other reference to this event anywhere else, that is until now. I too thought it was something to do with those satellites that collided at the time but the timing’s all wrong. Anyhow nice to know I’m not going crazy🙂.

  56. onealteredego says:

    Hello, so I am in Atlanta, and on the morning of February 4 just before dawn, I saw a huge ‘shooting star’ streaking across the sky moving due east. It was white maybe a little green. Was told later that it was a comet, but after looking at the pics of Comet Lulin, just don’t think so…anyone have any ideas?

  57. onealteredego says:

    btw: the date was important to me because that was within mere hours of my grand-daughters birth.

  58. Jody says:

    Last night in Colwyn Bay my mate and I were fishing. Through the clouds there was the large burning red spot, at first we thought it was a flare. We soon realised that unless you can fire a flare at over 30k feet it had to be something burning in the atmosphere. We couldn’t have been the only ones to have seen this. It was in an easterly direction over Southport from colwyn bay north wales. We aren’t loonies but would like to know if someone could tell me what it may have been.

  59. Frantik says:

    September 01’s roughly about 8pm 5 orange glowing lights (thinking they was metors of some sort) flew over Auckland New Zealand.. i thought it was either metor or something burning upon entry… but then it slowed down and changed direction… also 6 other family members saw this.. then went upwards and disappeared.

  60. Simon says:

    Have a look down the county list here

    http://www.uk-ufo.co.uk/

    Those orange spheres are being spotted everywhere

  61. cristy stephens arekala says:

    on oct 20, 2003, my daughter&i were leaving the hospital after the birth of my goddaughter. we had just got on the highway when the brighest, greenest ball of light just went across the sky, kind of slowly. i looked at the car besideme, and they were looking up at it, then began looking around to see if other people were seeing it. a few months later, i saw the same thing. i have wondered for 6yrs what in the world that was. til today, when i googled ‘green light in sky’. thought i was losing it for a whie there!:)

  62. Pingback: It was one year ago today … « The Transient Sky – Comets, Asteroids, Meteors

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