The Griffith Observatory Sky Report
I’m David Nakamoto, and I shall be taking over the monthly Sky Report from Anthony Cook, who is retiring from Griffith Observatory after 42 years.
This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through the period ending February 28th, 2021. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Copper-red Mars continues to recede from earth. It is shrinking slowly, from 7.8 arc-seconds on February 1st to 6.4 arcseconds by February 28th. Only a large telescope will show features on such a diminutive disk. For comparison, the Full Moon is generally 1,900 arcseconds wide. Mars starts the evening high overhead and reaches the meridian at 5:43 p.m. on the 1st and at 4:58 p.m. on the 28th. Mars sets earlier each night. On the 1st it sets at 12:33 a.m., and on the 28th it sets at 12:01 a.m. On the 18th, the First Quarter Moon is directly south of Mars.
Jupiter and Saturn disappear from our skies during February when both planets approach the Sun and become unobservable. At the end of February, both will rise in our morning skies in the east-southeast, about an hour before sunrise.
Venus is too close to the Sun and is unobservable. It will remain so until April, when it starts to make its appearance in our evening skies.
By the beginning of February, Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen. On the morning of the 19th, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn appear less than five degrees above the horizon in the east-southeast around 6:00 a.m. Because the Sun rises half an hour later, this will be tough to observe. The three planets form a triangle with Jupiter farthest to the east. Saturn is seven degrees to the west of Jupiter, and Mercury is right between them and slightly to the north. This is probably the best chance to see Mercury during February.
The Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 4th. The Moon is New on the 11th. First Quarter is on the 19th, and Full Moon is on the 27th.
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