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Nighttrek Report: What to See in the February Sky

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By Neill Simmons

The highlight of February is the International Space Station (ISS) making its best pass of the year over Southern California on Friday, February 2, at 6:28 pm.

The ISS will come out of the northwest and will be overhead in three minutes at 6:31 pm.  Remember the ISS has no blinking lights like airplanes.  The ISS will be visible as it moves east toward Las Vegas.  Traveling at 17,200 miles per hour, it will be over Vegas in one minute.  Make sure to show this to the little ones.

While outside looking for the ISS, notice the planet Jupiter in the west.  Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Jupiter also has the strongest magnetic field, pulling many rogue asteroids into its orbit which has saved Earth from being hit. 

This month there will be a faint comet named Comet C/2021.  It will be in the area of Taurus the Bull on the 14th and 15th of February.  Try to spot it with binoculars since it can’t be seen with the naked-eye.

The giant constellation Orion is at its best in the south. Our nation’s astronomers are keeping a close eye on Orion’s shoulder, which is the star known as “Betelgeuse.”  Every month this orange-red star keeps dimming, which is a sign that a star is dying.  It will eventually collapse upon itself and could explode into a dazzling light show.  However, astronomers say this event could occur tomorrow or any night in the next 100,000 years!  

Make sure to look to the left and down from Orion to see our brightest star in the heavens called Sirius. Sirius is in the Canis Major constellation.  Each night when it is low in the east it twinkles  in three colors –  white, red, and blue.  Astronomers say Sirius shifts through every color of the rainbow when the air in front of it is unstable or windy.

Sirius is one of six bright stars that make the giant “Winter Hexagon.”    The Winter Hexagon is big!  It is made up of six very bright stars from six different constellations. If you can get away from the city lights, the Winter Hexagon has a portion of the Milky Way running through it.

DAWN PATROL:  Venus rises after 5 am.  Make sure to look on February 21 to the 23 when the planet Mars will appear to be close to Venus.

This month there will be a full Micro Moon. A Micro Moon is when a Full Moon is at its farthest away from Earth and thus looks smaller than normal.  This happens on Saturday, February 24.

NASA reported that the Ingenuity mission is over after three years of flying.  The little helicopter had 72 flights before its rotor blades got damaged.

Vandenberg Space Force Base has been very active with Starlink rocket launches from Space X.  There is another planned rocket launch on Saturday, February 3.  Check Vandenberg’s website for updates. 

Griffith Observatory is having a Winter Star Party on Saturday, February 17, from dusk to 10 pm.  Telescopes will be set up to help you see the stars and planets.  This is a free event.

When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is a Wealth Advisor with LPL Financial in Woodland Hills.  If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or neill.simmons@lpl.com


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