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Astronomy Fact Of The Day

2018
February 1

Since January had two full moons and 2018 is not a leap year, there will not be a full moon this month due to the lunar cycle being 29.5 days long. This happens about 4 times a century.

February 2

It is the season for atmospheric optics. These are displays in the sky caused by light passing through different shaped ice crystals.

February 3

On this date in 1966 the Soviet spacecraft named Luna 9 made history by being the first unmanned probe to make a soft landing on the moon. Luna 9 landed in an area called the Ocean of Storms.

Learn more about Luna 9: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_9
February 4

On this date in 1906 Clyde Tombaugh was born in Illinois. He discovered Pluto in 1930. Pluto was once considered a planet but is now classified as a “dwarf planet”.

On this date in 1906 Clyde Tombaugh was born in Illinois. He discovered Pluto in 1930. Pluto was once considered a planet but is now classified as a “dwarf planet”.
Learn more about Dwarf Planets: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwarf_planet
February 5

On this date in 1974 the U.S. probe named Mariner 10 flew by Venus. This unmanned spacecraft sent the first close up images of Venus back to Earth.

On this date in 1974 the U.S. probe named Mariner 10 flew by Venus. This unmanned spacecraft sent the first close up images of Venus back to Earth.
February 6

On this date in 1473, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Poland. From his observations, Copernicus believed that all the planets orbited the Sun. This became known as the Heliocentric Theory of the solar system.

February 6

On this date in 1971 the Apollo 14 astronauts became the first humans to play golf on the moon! Alan B. Shepard Jr. hit the golf ball during the mission’s second extravehicular activity.

On this date in 1971 the Apollo 14 astronauts became the first humans to play golf on the moon! Alan B. Shepard Jr. hit the golf ball during the mission’s second extravehicular activity.
February 7

Last quarter moon occurs today. The Moon is believed to have formed from an impact between Earth and a Mars sized object about 4.51 billion years ago.

February 8

Tomorrow morning look for the planet Saturn rising in the southeast. An easy way to distinguish a planet from a star is stars twinkle and planets normally do not.

Tomorrow morning look for the planet Saturn rising in the southeast.  An easy way to distinguish a planet from a star is stars twinkle and planets normally do not.
February 9

The planet Venus is starting to climb out of the Sun’s glare on its way to an evening apparition that lasts most of 2018. Our first glimpse of the bright planet will come near the end of February.

The planet Venus is starting to climb out of the Sun’s glare on its way to an evening apparition that lasts most of 2018.  Our first glimpse of the bright planet will come near the end of February.
February 10

The surface temperature of Venus reaches nearly 900° F. The atmospheric pressure at the surface is 90 times that of Earth. On top of this its atmosphere contains clouds of sulfuric acid.

February 11

As the Moon reaches its farthest point from Earth today it will be exhibiting a waning crescent phase. Moonset occurs at roughly 2pm so it can be seen during the day. Just make sure you do not look at the Sun!

As the Moon reaches its farthest point from Earth today it will be exhibiting a waning crescent phase.  Moonset occurs at roughly 2pm so it can be seen during the day.  Just make sure you do not look at the Sun!
February 12

On this date in 2001 NEAR-Shoemaker became the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid. NEAR transmitted 69 close-up images of Eros and then soft-landed on the asteroid.

February 13

When viewed through a telescope or binocular, the planet Venus will appear phased like the Moon. This is because it is closer to the Sun than Earth. Mercury also exhibits phases.

February 14

If you look east around 7pm tonight you will find a backwards question mark shape of stars. This is the head of the constellation Leo the Lion.

February 15

Today a partial solar eclipse will occur however it is not visible from St. Louis. Solar eclipses are a type of syzygy that occur when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth.

February 16

Looking south at 8pm you will find the constellation Orion. He is easily distinguished by the three bright stars in a straight line. If you look below his belt with binoculars the nebula M42 will be found.

February 17

The planet Venus takes 225 Earth days to orbit the Sun. A day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days. On Venus one day is longer than its year.

February 18

On this date in 1930 Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. The New Horizons mission visited Pluto in 2015 and is now less than one year away from its second target. This target is a Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69.

February 20

On this date in 1947 the first animals in space were launched aboard a V-2 rocket. The animals aboard were two fruit flies who were recovered alive after they reached an altitude of 68 miles.

February 21

Like all planets Venus orbits the Sun in a counter-clockwise direction. However its axial rotation is opposite that of the other planets. Because of this on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

Like all planets Venus orbits the Sun in a counter-clockwise direction. However its axial rotation is opposite that of the other planets.  Because of this on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
February 22

If you look southeast at 3am tomorrow morning you will find the planets Jupiter and Mars. Jupiter will be higher in the sky and Mars will have a red color.

If you look southeast at 3am tomorrow morning you will find the planets Jupiter and Mars.  Jupiter will be higher in the sky and Mars will have a red color.
February 23

First quarter moon occurs today. As the Sun sets look for the Moon high in the southern skies near the V-shaped star cluster called the Hyades.

February 24

Tonight if you look south around 8pm you will find the Moon exhibiting a waxing gibbous phase. North of the Moon you will find the bright yellow star Capella which is the 6th brightest star we can see.

February 25

More than 40 spacecraft have explored the planet Venus. Only six of them were able to send information from the surface of Venus. These were the soviet mission named Venera 7, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 14.

February 26

The Space Launch Systems (SLS) is NASA’s newest and most powerful rocket that will be used for future deep space missions. The Exploration 1 Mission will be the first to use SLS which should launch in 2019 or 2020.

February 27

Guion Bluford Jr. became the first African American in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger on August 30, 1983. Guion flew on three other space shuttle missions.

February 28

The atmosphere of Venus is very different from Earth’s being mostly carbon dioxide with a little nitrogen, oxygen and other trace gases. It also rotates much faster than the surface making one rotation every 5 days.

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