February Space News!


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By: Jessica Stochel, Staff Writer

No more than a month ago, one of the most impressionable astronomical events occurred during the final weeks of 2016. Starting on December 13th onward to the morning of December 14th, the Geminid Meteor shower took place with 120 meteors per hour. Not only was it the biggest meteor shower of the year, but it was also a Supermoon, a Full Moon, and a Cold Moon (a Full Moon during the month of December). The rarity of this astronomical event was what caused this phenomenon to stir up a curiosity in quite a few people. These meteors – which come from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon – come into remarkably close contact with Mercury and the Sun. Over the course of 200 years, there is recorded evidence that this meteor shower is slowly increasing since its first observation in 1833. The event created an astonishing finale for the last few moments of 2016.

But now, it is 2017, and there are still new celestial events to come. Just recently, there was the Quadrantids Meteor Shower that took place on the night of January 3rd and the morning of January 4th. With up to 40 meteors per hour, this above average shower was especially visible due to the first quarter moon, allowing the night skies to be fairly dark. These meteors come from the comet named 2003 EH1, first discovered in – yes – 2003.

The planet Venus was at its highest point in the sky on January 12th, with Mercury at its highest point in the sky on January 19th. In other words, it was the one of the best times of the year to view these other planets up close.

For the rest of February, be sure to take note of the Full Moon that will come about on February 11. It will also be a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, a phenomenon in which the Moon passes through a segment of the Earth’s shadow (penumbra). On this night, expect the Moon to be darker than usual. Additionally, on February 26 there will be a New Moon along with an Annular Solar Eclipse. This eclipse occurs when the Moon is distanced from the Earth so that the Sun is still partially visible from behind the Moon. In certain areas, the Moon will be darker than usual with a ring of bright light around it. Be sure to not miss an opportunity to take a moment and observe the night sky. There is more going on up there than you think!

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