What's Up in SW Florida Skies
Inspiring People to Connect with Nature
February 2020: Dance of the Planets
Thursday, February 6th, SW FL Astronomical Society monthly meeting: 7:30 pm in the planetarium. SWFAS business meeting to follow. SWFAS meeting and presentation are open to the public and free of charge.
Moon Phases January:
2 9 17 23
1Q Full 3Q New
Early February: Venus is Really Bright. Mercury is right below it in evening sky...
Venus has become very noticeable in the southwestern sky, and we watched it get brighter and brighter as January advanced. The planet Venus is easy to spot all month long, as it outshines almost every star in the sky, but speedy Mercury will gradually drop toward the setting Sun and will finally disappear into the glare of sunset around February 20th.
The Rest of the Planets: Pre-Dawn Lineup!
Early risers can easily spot Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the predawn sky. They're three brilliant beacons above the eastern and ESE horizon. On the 18-20 of February, the waning crescent moon will first pass Mars (highest up and farthest to the right (S) of the three), then Jupiter and finally Saturn as the Moon heads for its "new" phase, crossing just beside the Sun from our point of view. These three planets will grace the predawn sky the rest of the month as well, but the crescent Moon adds drama to the view on the 18th, 19th and 20th. If you look at the "fish hook" shape just to the right of the line of planets, you are seeing the curling tail of Scorpius the scorpion in Greco-Roman star lore, or else Maui's Fishook in Hawaiian star lore! Antares is the "bright red heart of Scorpius," appropriately heart-forward for the month of Valentines!
Remember, every Friday if it's not cloudy we have our solar observing expert Gordon showing you the Sun "live" through our Coronado Solar Telescope in front of the Planetarium at 11 am. The wonderful planetarium astronomer Carol is back to show you the Universe at Friday's shows, as well!
Our daily planetarium shows this month are:
12:00 noon “Two Small Pieces of Glass:" Brought back only a few times each year, this excellent show for the whole family introduces the audience to the telescope, and takes you from the discoveries of Galileo to the farthest reaches of the known Universe!
2:30 pm: “From Earth to the Universe” plus "Winter Stargazing." Two excellent shorter shows: one takes you from the night skies of stone-age Earth to the observations that show us the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy -- the other shows you how to spot constellations and bright stars in your winter sky.
To spot the International Space Station moving through your sky, try NASA's Spot The Station website! Or to add in the Hubble and various other bright satellites, you can try Sky & Telescope's Tracker page.
Hoping to see you soon at the Center,
Heather Preston, Planetarium Director