Skywatch Line for Wednesday, February 15th, and Thursday, February 16th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, February 15th, and Thursday, February 16th, written by Louis Suarato.

February 15th is the anniversary of the birth of the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei. Born in Pisa, Italy in 1564, Galileo’s astronomical observations of the phases of Venus with his telescope led him to be a proponent of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the universe. In 1609, when Galileo viewed the Moon with his 20x magnification telescope, he discovered lunar features that disproved the theory that the Moon was a perfect sphere. Galileo also discovered the four largest moons orbiting Jupiter. The discovery of other celestial objects orbiting a planet other than Earth further disproved the geocentric theory the Earth was the center of the universe.

Wednesday, the 79% illuminated waning gibbous Moon sets at 9:20 a.m., and rises again at 10:27 p.m. in the constellation Virgo. A binocular view of the Moon will display the same “imperfect” lunar features revealed to Galileo, such as its seas, or mares, its craters, and mountains. As the Moon rises, look for Jupiter 7 degrees to its upper right. As Jupiter rises, the shadow of its Galilean moon, Io, transits the planet, followed by Io itself at 11:16 p.m.. Io’s shadow transit ends at 27 minutes past midnight. Io’s transit ends at 1:26 a.m. Thursday. Venus continues to dominate the western sky. Look for the International Space Station to sail by Venus and Mars Thursday night. The ISS will emerge from the northwestern horizon at 6:21 p.m. and pass Venus and Mars at 6:25 p.m., before continuing on it southeastern course toward Sirius in CanisMajor.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for their monthly meeting this Thursday night, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at miSci in Schenectady. This meeting will feature a planetarium show, “Saturn: Ring World”, presented by Megan Norris, Director of the Suits-Bueche Planetarium in miSci.

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