Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Stargazing

Keep looking up.

Anyone who has spent any time in space will love it for the rest of their lives. I achieved my childhood dream of the sky.
Valentina Tereshkov

Stargazing Summary

The stars of winter reign through the long February nights. Orion is in the south at nightfall, with Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, twinkling fiercely to its lower left. Venus reigns as the "evening star," although Jupiter gives it some competition in the evening sky. The two planets move closer to each other throughout the month. Mars is in the evening sky as well, climbing into good view in the east by around 9 p.m. early in the month, and by nightfall at month's end. Mars grows noticeably brighter during the month.

More stargazing information »

Radio Program Highlights

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February 1-5: Stellar Opposites.
The brightest star in the night sky has a companion that's a bare cosmic ember -- a stellar corpse known as a white dwarf. Join us for brilliant Sirius, its faint companion, and much more about white dwarfs.

February 6-12: Planetary Pointer. The planet Venus shines as the brilliant "evening star" this week. And it points the way to a faint planetary giant. Join us for this planetary encounter, plus some cracklin' displays in alien skies.

February 13-19: Winter Wonderland. The Moon is a minor presence in the night sky this week, allowing another wonder to shine through: the winter Milky Way. We'll have details on this thinly settled region of the galaxy plus much more.

February 20-26: A Bright Demise. The brightest exploding star of the last four centuries erupted into view 25 years ago. We'll have details about the explosion and its aftermath, plus a giant stride in the Space Race.

February 27-29: Leap Day. One of the oddities of the modern calendar is Leap Day -- a day added every fourth year to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. We'll talk about the history of Leap Day, plus the colors of the stars and more.

February Program Schedule »

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StarDate Magazine

In the March/April issue, astronomer and historian Barbara Ryden celebrates the centennial of a discovery that revolutionized how astronomers measure cosmic distance. We'll also talk about how joining a local astronomy club can enhance your skywatching fun and skills.

News From The Observatory

UT/Hubble Study Challenges 'Cosmic Fireworks' as Largest Driver of Galaxy Evolution
A Hubble Space Telescope study of massive galaxies two to three billion years after the Big Bang has uncovered two remarkable results that challenge the common lore that major mergers play a dominant role in growing galaxies over a wide range of cosmic epochs. Astronomers led by University of Texas at Austin graduate student Tim Weinzirl and associate professor Shardha Jogee presented their findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin.

Mirror Casting Event for Giant Magellan Telescope
On January 14, the second 8.4-meter (27.6 ft) diameter mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope, or GMT, was cast inside a rotating furnace at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab underneath the campus football stadium. The mirror lab hosted a special event to highlight this milestone in the creation of the optics for the telescope. McDonald Observatory is a founding partner of the GMT collaboration.

Gebhardt Honored by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas
In recognition of his discoveries regarding the formation of black holes and galaxies, astronomer Karl Gebhardt received the 2012 Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. The O'Donnell Award honors outstanding young Texas researchers in medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation.

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