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Backyard astronomers: An eye to the February sky

— Late February is a good time of month for the backyard astronomer.

Columbia Gorge Amateur Astronomers will host a free session for the public Friday, Feb. 22, up at Thompson Track in The Dalles, weather permitting. The session will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The viewing agenda revolves around views of the Moon, Jupiter, and an International Space Station pass at 7:19 p.m.

Jupiter is high in the evening sky, along with our waxing moon on its way to being full Feb. 26.

When sky-gazers look for deep sky objects, which are dim, we don’t like the moon because its light drowns out the rest of the sky.

So the backyard astronomer makes lemons out of lemonade and switches over to lunar observing in such parts of the month, reminded of its deep craters and abundant canyons.

“It’s amazing how many people have never seen the moon through a telescope before” says CGAA.

Speaking of objects that are hardly seen, many people have never seen Mercury, and that’s because it’s orbit renders it low in the horizon and close to the setting Sun.

Several times a year Mercury’s orbit changes a few degrees here and there and it is over the horizon high enough to see.

This, in astronomy lingo, is referred to as “Elongation.” On Feb. 16 Mercury was at its greatest elongation to the sun at 18 degrees.

It will gradually lower as the month progresses, but the evening twilight offers a great view of it in the western horizon.

The International Space station or ISS is going to be a “frequent flyer” in our evening sky for the rest of the month, including this week.

Sometimes the ISS appears bright, and at other times dim. That is totally dependent on its angle to the sun and the amount of reflection it allows for the viewer’s position.

Schedule:

Feb 20: 7:24 p.m. Begins in the NW horizon lasting 3 minutes until it disapears in the NNE

Feb 21: 6:33 p.m. Begins in the NW horizon lasting 6 minutes, disappearing in the E.

Feb 22: 7:19 p.m. Begins in the WNW horizon lasting 4 minutes disapearing the SSW.

Feb 23: 6:28 p.m. Begins in the WNW horizon lasting 6 minutes disapearing in the ESE.

Feb 24: 7:14 p.m. Begins in the WNW horizon lasting 5 minutes disspearing in the SW.

Feb 25: 6:23 p.m. Begins in the WNW horizon lasting 6 minutes disspearing in the SSW.

Information provided by Columbia Gorge Amateur Astronomers. Contact: ColumbiaGorgeAmA@Yahoo.com.

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