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    Articles > February 2004
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The Night Sky Planisphere

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  Sky Calendar -- February 2004
3 Moon near Saturn at 4h UT (evening sky). Saturn (mag ­0.3) remains spectacular when viewed through even a small telescope.
5 Moon near the Beehive cluster (M44) at 15h UT (midnight sky). Binoculars provide an excellent view.
6 Full Moon at 8:47 UT. The full Moon of February is called the "Snow Moon", "Hunger Moon" or "Wolf Moon" in old almanacs.
8 Moon near Jupiter at 16h UT (morning sky).
13 Last Quarter Moon at 13:40 UT. Friday-the-13th, supposed to be unlucky. Did you know that Friday falls on the 13th more often than any other day.
14 Moon near Antares at 17h UT (morning sky).
16 Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 8h UT (distance 368,322 km; angular size 32.5').
20 New Moon at 9:18 UT. Beginning of lunation 1004.
23 Moon near Venus at 22h UT (43° from Sun, evening sky).
26 Moon very near Mars at 2h UT (evening sky). Best views from South America. Mars mag. +1.1.
27 Moon near the Pleiades at 10h UT (evening sky).
28 First Quarter Moon at 3:24 UT.
28 Moon at apogee (furthest from Earth) at 11h UT (distance 404,259 km; angular size 29.6').
29 Leap-day, added to February so this year has 366 days instead of the usual 365 days. A leap-day is added in each year divisible by 4 except century-years unless those years are divisible by 400 (eg, 2000). Thus, 97 leap-days are added every 400 years. The purpose of adding a leap-day is to ensure years remain close to the true seasonal year.
Zodiacal light. Late February is the best time of the year in the northern hemisphere 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.
The Planets: Venus continues its dazzling display in the west-northwest evening sky. Jupiter, although much fainter, starts to rise in the East before Venus sets. A small telescope will easily show Jupiter's clouds and its 4 bright moons. Saturn's magnificent rings, currently near maximum tilt open, are another easy target for small telescopes. Sadly Mars, the host of robotic explorers Spirit and Opportunity, appears as a tiny orange-colored dot even in large telescopes.
All times Universal Time (UT). (USA Eastern Standard Time = UT ­ 5 hours)

Clear skies till next month!

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