Astronomy in 2009
Axarquia, Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain

NIGHT SKIES

IYA2009 - 2009 IS THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY
Commemorating glorious events particularly the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s invention of the telescope
Slogan - The Universe, Yours to Discover
Events during February
· 9th - penumbral eclipse of the Moon.
· 13th - Mercury at greatest western elongation (26š)
· 19th - Venus attains its greatest brilliancy (magnitude -4.6)
· The Moon: Full - 9th, New - 25th
Mercury
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Mercury Click for more information
Mercury is visible in the morning skies for observors in the tropics and southern hemisphere. For these latitudes this is the most favourable morning apparition of the year, with its magnitude brightening from +0.7 to -0.1 during February.

The best times to observe Mercury in the northen hemisphere are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.

The best times to observe Mercury are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.

Venus
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Venus Click for more information
At its most glorious this month, Venus attains its greatest brilliancy on the 19th February and continues to dominate the evening western night sky after sunset. Venus is at its brightest during the crescent stage when only about 30% of its daylit hemisphere is turned towards us.

Transit On the 8th June 2004, Venus was at inferior conjunction and transited the sun. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place at greater than 100 year intervals and usually in pairs. The last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. June's transit began at 7.20h and lasted 6 hours until 13.20h, the total event visible from Europe as a small black disc crossing the lower part of the Sun from left to right. The next transit will be in late June 2012. After that, transits of Venus won't occur again until 2117 and 2125.

Before and after inferior conjuction, when Venus is the closest it comes to the Earth, are the times at which the planet is most brilliant and can be seen setting or rising 4 hours after or before the Sun. The dates of the next two inferior conjunctions are October 28th 2010 and October 26th 2018.
Mars
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Mars Click for more information
At magnitude +1.2 and moving eastwards in Capricorn, Mars is visible as a morning object low above the eastern horizon prior to brightening twilight at the beginning of February, to observors in the tropics and southern hemisphere.

Mars passes just 0.6š south of Jupiter on 17th February but is not visible in northern latitudes until later in the year.

At opposition on the 28th August 2003, Mars was only 56 million kilometres from the Earth. It showed a disc of 25.1 seconds of arc across which is almost as large as it can ever appear. Mars started 2003 at 310 million kilometres from the earth at 4.5 seconds of arc and 1.6 magnitude. By opposition it brightened 50 times to reach -2.9 magnitude but faded to 0 magnitude by December. Even to the naked eye Mars was a striking object in the summer and autumn sky, easily identifiable by its reddish hue in an area of sky poor in bright stars. Mars will not be as close again until 2018.

These favourable oppositions occur every 15 or 17 years but other oppositions occur at average intervals of 2 years 2 months during which time the planet makes a complete circle of the Earth. In general Mars is observable every other year, being too close to the sun for favourable conditions during other times. Brightness at opposition varies from -1.0 to -2.9 magnitude, and when furthest from the earth it fades to 1.7 magnitude. The planet can be identified by its orange-red colour.

As in 2003, Mars comes nearest to the Earth at oppositions at the end of August. At these times it can be brighter than Jupiter, although low in the sky in Aquarius for northern observors. In the northern hemisphere, the planet may be better seen at oppostions during autumn and winter months when it is higher in the sky.

Jupiter
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Jupiter Click for more information
At magnitude -1.9, Jupiter becomes visible in the morning skies shortly before dawn low above the eastern horizon, after the first week of the month. (Though not as far north as Britain).

Mercury passes 0.6š south of Jupiter on 24th February.

Being 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than with Mars, from about -2.8 to -1.8 magnitude. Always a bright planet, Jupiter comes to opposition a month later each year, moving approximately from one zodiacal constellation to the next.

The 4 largest moons of Jupiter are easily visible through a small telescope, ranging from 4.6 to 5.6 in magnitude. The innermost, Io, takes 1.8 days to orbit the planet making its motion easily detectable within a few minutes.

Saturn
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Saturn Click for more information
Saturn, at +0.6 magnitude, continues moving retrograde in Leo. It may be seen rising in the eastern sky as darkness falls. By the end of February Saturn will cross the meridian just after midnight.

Saturnīs rings continue to close with the south pole presented towards Earth and the far side of the rings no longer appearing clear of the planetīs body. This year the Earth will pass through the ring plane making the rings invisible for a short while. This will be the first time since 1997 that the planetīs magnitude has faded to this level.

Saturn moves more slowly than Jupiter and can remain in the same constellation for several years. The brightness of the planet depends on the aspect of its rings, as well as its distance from Earth and the Sun.

The planet crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it will remain until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system facing the earth. Because of its distance, its brightness varies little between opposition and conjunction but is affected by the huge ring system. Seen edge on the rings contribute little or no light.

Every 15 years the plane of Saturn's rings passes through the sun, illuminating first the north and then the south side. For a few days the rings are edge on to the sun. About the same time the Earth passes through the ring plane and, depending on the Earth's position, this may happen just once or 3 times. During 1995/96 there was a triple crossing and the next will be 2038/39. The next single crossings will be in 2009 and 2025.

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.

Uranus
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Uranus Click for more information
Brightness varies slightly reaching 5.6 magnitude at opposition. This is bright enough to see with the naked eye but identifying it against the stars is difficult.
Neptune
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Neptune Click for more information
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance.
Pluto
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of Pluto Click for more information
No longer an offical planet and never brighter than +13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful telescopes.
Moon
Astronomy, Mythology & Astrology of the Moon Click for more information
February
First quarter: 2nd
Full moon: 9th
Last quarter: 16th
New moon: 25th
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