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    Articles > February 2003
 
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Celestial Delights

Both an introduction to Astronomy and a calendar of upcoming celestial events to 2010, this layperson's guide forecasts and explains numerous celestial phenomena in lucid writing and easy-to-grasp diagrams. Specially written for urban skywatchers, Celestial Delights deepens our appreciation of what we see when we look up into the night sky, and inspires us to do so more often.
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  Sky Calendar -- February 2003
Comet C/2002 V1 (NEAT) will be visible to northern hemisphere skywatchers during the first week of February. The comet is on its way to the Sun (0.1 AU on 18 February) having last made the journey about 37,000 years ago! The comet can be found below the Great Square of Pegasus appearing in binoculars as a 5th magnitude diffuse object. In the last days of the month another comet, Comet C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa), will be visible low in the southwest sky (use binoculars). Happy comet hunting!
1 New Moon at 10:49 UT. Beginning of lunation 991.
1 Mars 4.9° north of Antares at 13h UT (morning sky).
2 Jupiter at opposition at 9h UT (mag. ­2.6). The best time of the year to observe the largest planet in the solar system. A small telescope will reveal distinct cloud bands on the surface of the planet.
4 Mercury at greatest elongation, 25° west of the Sun (morning sky). In the east-southeast, to the lower left of brilliant Venus (mags. 0.0 and ­4.3).
7 Moon at apogee (furthest from Earth) at 22h UT (distance 404,552 km; angular size 29.5').
9 First Quarter Moon at 11:11 UT.
10 Moon near the Pleiades at 8h UT.
12 Moon near Saturn (mag. ­0.1) at 2h UT.
15 Moon near Jupiter (mag. ­2.6) at 15h UT.
16 Full Moon at 23:51 UT. The full Moon of February is called the "Snow Moon", "Hunger Moon" or "Wolf Moon" in old almanacs.
19 Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 16h UT (distance 364,845 km; angular size 32.8').
23 Last Quarter Moon at 16:46 UT.
25 Moon near Mars (mag. 1.0) at 4h UT (morning sky).
27 Moon near Venus (mag. ­4.1) at 12h UT (morning sky).
28 Zodiacal light. Late February is the best time of the year to look for the zodiacal light (caused by sunlight reflected off meteoric dust in the plane of the solar system). Choose a clear, moonless night, about 1 to 2 hours after sunset, and look along the ecliptic in the west for a large triangular-shaped glow extending up from the horizon. [Northern Hemisphere only]
All times in Universal Time (UT). (USA Eastern Standard Time = UT ­ 5 hours.)

Clear skies till next month!

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