This month see Jupiter at sunset, Saturn at midnight, pretty moon and planet couples in-between. Plus find a comet, and an asteroid in your telescope. Also features the Valentines day flyby of comet Temple 1 by the Stardust NExT spacecraft.
Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for February? Jupiter at sunset, Saturn at midnight and cosmic couples. Hello and welcome! I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
This is the last month to spot Jupiter in the evening skies until next fall. Try to get one more look, especially at the southern equatorial belt, which seemed to disappear last year and has just begun to reemerge.
Watch the crescent moon below, next to and above Jupiter. On the 6th, it's right next to Jupiter and Uranus. On the 20th, late in the evening, the waning gibbous moon forms a pretty triangle with Saturn and Virgo's brilliant white star Spica. On the next night these 3 objects form a straight line.
Finally, on February 28, in the morning sky before dawn, the moon snuggles up with Venus. Comet Hartley 2, the comet that NASA's Deep Impact / EPOXI spacecraft flew by in November, is visible in the sky through March. You'll need a telescope to find it near the open cluster M-50 in the constellation Monoceros. But it's worth hunting down.
On Valentine's Day, February 14, the repurposed Stardust-NExT spacecraft flies by comet Tempel 1. This comet was previously visited by Deep Impact. Saturn shines in the late evening at the beginning of the month. But your best views of the ringed planet this month will be after midnight when it's highest in the sky.
Through telescopes, look for the newly-observed storm on Saturn's northern hemisphere. Asteroids! The first four discovered -- Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta -- all make appearances in our sky later this year.
Ceres was the first asteroid to be discovered and one of the first objects to be reclassified as a dwarf planet. NASA's Dawn spacecraft visits Vesta later this year and will reach Ceres in 2015. Also this month, look for asteroid Nysa in the constellation Leo.
You can learn more about asteroid and comet classroom activities at solarsystem.nasa.gov/yss which stands for Year of the Solar System.
And you can learn all about NASA missions at www.nasa.gov That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.