Venus an ear­lier riser and trav­eler in Fe­bru­ary

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY BLAINE P. FRIED­LAN­DER JR. Blaine Fried­lan­der can be reached at PostSkyWatch@gmail.com.

That’s a more. In Fe­bru­ary, that month of love, what bet­ter planet than Venus (named for the Ro­man god­dess of love) to greet morn­ing sky gaz­ers.

Find Venus in the south­east­ern sky just a few hours be­fore sun­rise. It’s an in­spir­ing bea­con at neg­a­tive fourth mag­ni­tude, ex­tremely bright and hard to miss. For the time be­ing, it loi­ters be­low the con­stel­la­tion Ophi­uchus and to the left of the con­stel­la­tion Scor­pius. You should be able to spot it un­til about 7 a.m. now. Watch it tra­verse the re­gion in the morn­ing heav­ens over the next few weeks.

By the end of Fe­bru­ary, Venus will move sub­stan­tially. Within weeks, the ef­fer­ves­cent planet trav­els to the Sagit­tar­ius con­stel­la­tion.

At month’s end, Venus should be vis­i­ble un­til about 6:30 a.m. En­joy the old skinny moon as it waltzes around Venus at the end of Fe­bru­ary.

Saturn — a zero mag­ni­tude ob­ject (bright)— now rises in the east­ern sky about 11 p.m., hang­ing out in the con­stel­la­tion Virgo, but within two weeks, the ringed planet as­cends the heav­ens about 10 p.m. At the end of Fe­bru­ary, catch Saturn ris­ing about 9 p.m.

Jupiter com­mands the early evening night sky now. This large, gaseous planet sets a few hours af­ter sun­set. As the month lingers, Jupiter — a neg­a­tive sec­ond mag­ni­tude (very bright) ob­ject — drives closer to the hori­zon.

Down-to-earth events

Feb. 3 — “ Three Ar­range­ments: Ex­plor­ing Our Grand Uni­verse,” a lec­ture by Jim Gates, Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land; Larry Glad­ney, Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia; and Her­man White Jr., Fermi Na­tional Ac­cel­er­a­tor Lab­o­ra­tory. They ex­plain string the­ory, par­ti­cle physics and math­e­mat­i­cal as­tro­physics to de­scribe the uni­verse and how it evolves. 6:45 p.m., Carnegie In­sti­tu­tion for Sci­ence au­di­to­rium, 1530 P St. NW. For more in­for­ma­tion:

carnegi­escience.edu/events.

Feb. 4 — “Ad­vanced Propul­sion for Fu­ture Space Ex­plo­ration,” a lec­ture by Edgar Choueiri, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity. The pro­fes­sor ex­plains new ways to pro­pel space­craft within our Milky Way neigh­bor­hood. 8:15

p.m., Washington Philo­soph­i­cal So­ci­ety, John Wes­ley Pow­ell Au­di­to­rium (ad­ja­cent to the Cos­mos Club), 2170 Florida Ave. NW. In­for­ma­tion: www.philsoc.org/.

Feb. 5 — “How are Stars Born?” a pro­gram at the Mont­gomery Col­lege Plan­e­tar­ium, Takoma Park. 7 p.m. ( This pro­gram, orig­i­nally sched­uled for Jan. 29, was resched­uled be­cause of an emer­gency.) www.mont­gomerycol­lege.

Feb. 5 — “Weight­less Ad­ven­tures: A Zero-Grav­ity Lab­o­ra­tory Ex­per­i­ment to Study How Plan­ets Form,” a lec­ture by as­tronomer De­merese Sal­ter at the open house at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Ob­ser­va­tory, Col­lege Park. Te­le­scope view­ing after­ward, weather per­mit­ting. 8 p.m.

301-405-6555. www.astro.umd. edu/open­house.

Feb. 12 — “From Ex­tra­so­lar Gas Gi­ant to Hot, Rocky Planet,” a talk by Brian Jack­son of the NASA God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter at the Na­tional Cap­i­tal As­tronomers meet­ing, Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Ob­ser­va­tory, Col­lege Park. 7:30 p.m. cap­i­tal as­tronomers.org.

Feb. 13 — As­tronomer Tom Hill speaks on space ex­plo­ration, past and fu­ture, at the North­ern Vir­ginia As­tron­omy Club meet­ing, Room 80, En­ter­prise Hall, Ge­orge Ma­son Uni­ver­sity, Fair­fax. 7 p.m. no­vac.com.

Feb. 19 — Learn how slaves reached free­dom by fol­low­ing the “ the Drink­ing Gourd” — the Big Dip­per— in a pro­gram called “African Skies,” at the Mont­gomery Col­lege Plan­e­tar­ium, Takoma

Park. 7 p.m. www.mont­gomerycol­lege.edu/De­part­ments/planet/.

Feb. 20— As­tronomer Jerry Bon­nell lec­tures at the open house at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Ob­ser­va­tory, Col­lege Park. See the night sky through a te­le­scope after­ward, weather per­mit­ting. 8 p.m. 301-405-6555. www.astro.umd.edu/open­house.

Feb. 25 — Thanks to space tele­scopes, sci­en­tists can still find sur­prises in the Crab Neb­ula, a su­per­nova rem­nant. Check out “Re­veal­ing the Crab Neb­ula with the Hub­ble, Chan­dra and Fermi Space Tele­scopes,” a lec­ture by physi­cist Roger Bland­ford. Lock­heed Martin Imax Theater, Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum, the Mall in Washington. Ad­mis­sion is free, but tick­ets are re­quired. 7:30 p.m. In­for­ma­tion: www.nasm.si.edu.

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