Top Celestial News and Views for February 2021

There is much to LOVE in February aside from your sweetheart this year!


Although there isn’t a wealth of grand celestial views on display this month, you will certainly want to know about THREE extraordinary space missions that are currently underway. But first let’s talk about the splendid events soon to be unfolding before your very eyes…


February 11th

The night of the New Moon offers star gazers a clear view without added light to impede the display. Look for star clusters, planets, and neighboring galaxies this month while the moon sleeps.


Venus and Jupiter converge. The two planets will appear close together, low in the morning sky whilst Saturn hangs steadily nearby to the upper right. Observe the pair as they converge about 20 minutes before sunrise.


February 13th

The Great Square of Pegasus remains in the western sky throughout the evening hours. Spot it and you may also catch a glimpse of the famous Andromeda Galaxy! Looking like two streamers of blurred light coming off the top of the Great Square, the spiral shaped galaxy is visible with the naked eye on a dark, clear night, or with binoculars if light impedes the view.



February 27th

The Snow Moon rises at 3:17 am eastern time. Named for the snowiest month of the year, this particular Full Moon has also been referred to as the Storm Moon, which seems fitting during prime blizzard season. North American tribes called it the Hunger Moon due to the scarcity of reliable food sources during this barren time of year.



Full Moon Events

There are so many celestial events going on throughout the year that you absolutely must check them out! To discover events happening in YOUR area, just type “2021 Celestial Events” in your browser’s search bar.


For Michiganders living near the middle of the mit, enjoy a Moonlight Stroll at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, or a Full Moon Snowshoe Hike at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling. Click the links for more information.



3 Space Missions Complete Their First Stage Objectives

It is so exciting to learn that all three spacecrafts launched last July will finally reach their destinations this month. Taking a full 7 months to reach the atmosphere of our brother planet, each country involved in these exploration efforts will endeavor to uncover fresh, new perspectives about the planet’s habitability.


February 9th

Hope, the first spacecraft ever launched by the United Arab Emirates will enter Mars orbit. Having collected scientific data along its route since July 20th, the orbiter will continue gathering atmospheric data from Mars in order to better understand how hydrogen is distributed between planets. After its orbital insertion, the spacecraft will remain within 620 – 30,500 miles of the planet’s surface, circling the planet for a full Martian year (687 days).


February 10th

China’s Tianwen-1 enters Mars orbit. While in orbit, the spacecraft will take time imaging the red planet’s surface for the ideal landing site within the Utopia Planitia basin. After extensive surface studies, the spacecraft will launch its rover to land on the planet’s surface in May to research potential water sources with its Subsurface Exploration Radar instrumentation.



February 18th

The car-sized rover, Perseverance, successfully rocketed to outer-space on July 30, 2020 at 7:50am from Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida. It will be NASA’s fifth robotically operated rover to attempt landing on Mars.


Touchdown is expected at 3:30 pm EST within the Jazero Crater, and you can Watch it live on YouTube at 2:15 pm EST. Since the crater is believed to have once contained a lake, scientists expect to find evidence of prehistoric microbes within the rock and soil samples the rover will collect. Analysis samples will be stored on the red planet until 2031 when the very first return to Earth mission is slated.


Besides geological studies, Perseverance will attempt generating oxygen on a very small scale with an instrument called MOXIE, which stands for “Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment.” If successful, a larger scaled technology built on the planet could very well mark the beginning of human life on Mars.


In addition to the rover’s many instruments on board, it will also be equipped with a tiny helicopter attached to its belly. Ingenuity will be the first rotorcraft to ever fly on another planet! If all goes as planned, the mini chopper will offer a chance to cover more of the planet that humans could one day inhabit.


SpaceX

Did you know that Elon Musk’s, Starship, is slated for its first unmanned cargo mission to Mars in 2022? With lofty plans of colonizing the red planet currently underway, Musk claims the first humans will be landing there by 2026, and he hopes to be one of them.


Would you want to go?





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References

Cao Sissi, December 2, 2020, Elon Musk Reveals SpaceX’s Timeline for Landing Humans on Mars, https://observer.com/2020/12/elon-musk-says-spacex-will-land-humans-on-mars-in-a-few-years-if-theyre-lucky/


Gohd, Chelsea, November 3, 2020, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission: Live Updates, https://www.space.com/news/live/mars-perseverance-rover-updates


Hocken, Vigdis, February: Snow Moon, https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/moon/snow.html

Howell, Elizabeth, November 10, 2020, The UAE’s 1st Mars probe will reach the Red Planet on Feb. 9, https://www.space.com/uae-mars-hope-mission-halfway-to-red-planet


Jones, Andrew, China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft will reach Mars orbit on February 10, https://www.space.com/china-tianwen-1-mars-orbit-insertion-february-2021


McClure, Bruce, 2021, Star-hop: Pegasus to Andromeda galaxy, https://earthsky.org/?p=55793


McGreevy, Nora, January 7, 2021, Ten Celestial Events to Look Forward To In 2021, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-celestial-events-look-forward-2021-180976687/


Nasa Science, Mars 2020 Mission Perseverance Rover, https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/timeline/landing/


Petersen, Kate S., 2021, Full Moon Calendar, Dates, Times, Nicknames For The Brightest Nights Outside, https://www.inverse.com/science/full-moon-calendar-2021


Roston, Michael, 2021, Sync your calendar with the solar system, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/science/astronomy-space-calendar.html


The Sky, 2021, Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events for Calendar Year 2021, http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2021.html


Wall, Mike, January 21, 2020, NASAs Mars rover Perseverance lands on the red planet in less than a month! https://www.space.com/mars-rover-perseverance-landing-one-month

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