Society News and Night Sky Notes – February 1999

Society News Headlines

  • Feb 1st – Galileo spacecraft makes 19th flyby of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
  • Feb 2nd – Regulus is 0.3° South of Moon.
  • Feb 2nd – Uranus in Conjunction with the Sun.
  • Feb 4th – Vesta at Opposition.
  • Feb 4th – Launch of Russian Space Mirror from MIR space station. Znamya (Banner) Home Page
  • Feb 4th – Mercury at Superior Conjunction.
  • Feb 5th – Public Open Evening at The Pex Hill Observatory. 7:30pm – 9:30pm.
  • Feb 6th – Planned launch date for NASA’s STARDUST spacecraft, – Comet sample return mission.
  • Feb 7th – Mars 3° South of Moon.
  • Feb 9th – BBC’s Sky at Night with Patrick Moore. February’s Program – Looking for Trouble. (Rept Feb 13th).
  • Feb 9th – Comet C/1998 W3 (LINEAR) at Perihelion, (4.863AU).
  • Feb 11th – Pluto becomes the farthest planet from the Sun again, after 20 years.It will cross the orbit of Neptune at 14:20 UT to-day.
  • Feb 12th – LAS members Evening at Pex Hill Observatory. 7:30pm until late!.
  • Feb 12th – The Start of Astronomy Now’s ASTROFEST’99 at the Kensington Town Hall. (ends Sat 13th Feb).
  • Feb 14th – Neptune 1.5° South of Moon.
  • Feb 16th – Annular Eclipse of the Sun – not seen from Liverpool.
  • Feb 18th – Venus 1.8° North of Moon.
  • Feb 18th – Jupiter 2° North of Moon.
  • Feb 19th – LAS monthly meeting at Lecture Room – Liverpool Museum (NMGM) starting at 7pm.
  • Feb 20th – Saturn is 3° North of Moon.
  • Feb 22nd – Launch of the Russian TM-29 Soyuz mission, the proposed last crew to MIR?.
  • Feb 23rd – Aldebaran is 0.4° South of the Moon.
  • Feb 23rd – Venus is 0.1° North of Jupiter. Astrophoto Time.
  • Feb 27th – BAA Ordinary Meeting – London. 2:30pm.
  • Feb 28th – Mercury at Perihelion.


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The Sun and Moon

All times are in GMT the same as U.T. Times For Observer in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, U.K.Latitude 53 degs 24 mins North.
Longitude +3.0 degs West.

          31st Jan     5th Feb      10th      15th      20th      25th      2nd Mar
SUNRISE    07:59        07:50      07:41     07:31     07:20     07:09       06:58
SUNSET     16:53        17:03      17:13     17:23     17:32     17:42       17:52
on 16th at 06h:40m
on 23rd at 02h:44m
on 8th at 11h:59m


After January’s double full moon, February manages to skip a full moon. At 28 days, its the only month short enough to accomplish this feat.February last lacked a full moon in 1961 and will miss one again in 2018. After January,the first full Moon will be on March 2nd followed by another blue Moon on March 31st.



Mercury is at superior conjunction on the 4th but swiftly rises in the evening skyto reach a maximum altitude of over 10° early in March. This table and the diagram below should enable you to locate this surprisingly bright planet, especially as Venus and Jupiter are higher up and the Moon comes very close on the evening of the 17th. Mercury also passes close to some faint stars in Aquarius throughtout the apparition.

Planets on view in the South-Western evening sky, February - March 1999

Click to enlarge – Planets on view in the South-Western evening sky, February – March 1999


Venus starts to become entangled with Jupiter in February and a quick glance thrugh a telescope will show the vest difference in size between the two planets. Venus, quite close to us (1.48AU mid month were 1AU is equivalent to approximately 93 million miles) appears as a 12″ disk whlist Jupiter (5.72AU away appears nearly 3x larger at 34″ across. On the 24th the two planets are only 8′ apart so a low power eyepiece on a telescope or a pair of 10×59 binoculars will show them both in the same field of view.A series of short exposure photos (4 to 6 seconds on 400 ASA film) taken a day or so apart will record this celestial ballet with the Moon putting in a cameo appearnace on the 17th & 18th, passing 2.5° South of Venus on the 18th at 07h:00m.

Venus and Jupiter in pre-dawn sky at 06:30 U.T. January 26th 1995, by Gerard Gilligan

Venus and Jupiter in pre-dawn sky at 06:30 U.T. January 26th 1995


Mars’ apparent diameter is slowly increasing as it approaches the Earth for an April apposition. Passing through the large constellation of Virgo, the red planet passes South of the Naked eye star Kappa Virginis on the 7th and North of lambda Virginis, anotherStar visible to the unaided eye, on the 15th. Also on the 7th Mars is 2° South of the Moon.

MARSWATCH – latest observations of the red planet.


Vesta is at Opposition on February 4th at Mag 6.2 and can be found on the Leo/Cancer border, moving into Cancer in March.

For More information on Asteroids Click Here.


Jupiter, as mentioned above, is associated briefly with Venus, the two planets heading off in different directions after their February 24th encounter, Venus risubf to even greater heights with Jupiter heading towards an April 1st appointment with the Sun. On the 18th at midnight Jupiter is 3° North of the Moon.

Launched in October 1989, the Galileo Jupiter Probe entered orbit around the great planet on December 7th 1995. The Project Galileo Homepage will give you up-to-date information and the very latest images returned.


Saturn, half the diameter of Jupiter at the Moment is slightly more favourable but soon it too will descend into the evening murk. On the 20th Saturn is just over 3° North of the Moon.


Uranus is at solar conjunction on February 3rd and Neptune is still unfavourable for observations until May/June.


Pluto will be out of view until the end of March.

On the 11th February Pluto will cross the orbit of Neptune and once again, after 20 years, becomes the farthest planet from the SUN.


February 3rd and 13th Alpha Aurigids ZHR is 12 per hour. ( Fairly favourable)




  • Feb 1st at 19h:45m Reappearance of Nu Leonis
  • Feb 3rd at 05h:00m Reappearance of Chi Leonis .
  • Feb 28th at 03h:04m Disappearance of Omicron Cancri.