SJAA Ephemeris February 2002 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next


Cheated Again

David North


Just about everything that could go wrong will, and some other things I don’t know about probably will also.



You might look at this month as the Bad Moon month. Just about everything that could go wrong will, and some other things I don't know about probably will also.

First, there will be a magnificent occultation of Saturn February 20th, visible from most of the United States.

One problem: this is not part of the "most" named above. We're above the line, and won't see it.

No big deal, mind you: it happens in midafternoon anyway.

Hardcore fans can drive to Los Angeles, where it will barely make the cut (and a bit north of that, for the truly hardworking occultation viewer, will be the graze zone.

Sometime in February (no doubt) notifications of the exact location of this zone will start to appear virtually everywhere on the internet, so don't worry - you'll know where it is).

On the other hand, it will be a very good lunar observing night, if the weather holds (and typically in February, it won't...)

There will be an interesting occultation of Vesta earlier that day, but: not from here. No, for that you'd have to travel quite a distance.

And, as a final insult to deep sky observers, just before the month slips away (on the 27th, actually) we'll see the biggest, brightest full Moon of the year.

A bonus: it will be high in the sky, too.

That last note is the only one a lunar observer need concern himself with this month.

We're going to be right in the heart of the best time of year for evening Moon observation.

In February, March and April especially, the first quarter Moon (and the days immediately after) will be at their highest elevations for the year.

This, of course, also means there will be less turbulent atmosphere between us and the Moon.

The weather, if clear, should also be somewhat steady to excellent, just because I say so. (Theory indicates the seeing should average more steady nearer the summer months, and perhaps it does, but for some weird reason the late winter and early spring clear nights often have utterly spectacular seeing, which maybe doesn't clock out to be a great average, but wonderful on the days when you can see).

Of course, another advantage to such nights is the Moon transits shortly after sunset. For some folks, that might be a bit early to get home after work, but for quite some time after that the Moon will be high.

This is ideal for getting in some early observing - some nights even before dinner.

So, we will miss this month's occultations, but it might turn out to be a pretty good month for plain old observing (depending, as usual, on the weather).

And I just can't complain about that.

Weather is a good thing.


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