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skythismonth
THE SKY THIS MONTH: Is it colder than Mars?

Over the last few weeks, it’s been reported that it’s colder than the surface of Mars.
Maybe, it’s temporarily warmer at high noon on the Martian equator, but it’s common for temperatures to dip more than 100 degrees at night, since the atmosphere is too thin to hold heat. The Martian rover Opportunity has recorded summer daytime temperatures fluctuating from 30 C down to -80 C at night.
Opportunity has spent a decade on the planet after landing on the surface Jan. 24, 2004. Its longevity may be due to Martian winds blowing dust off its solar panels.
Even though Mars is colder than Earth, it’s still warm enough to melt water. However, past the orbit of Jupiter there’s only ice because the Sun’s heat is too weak to melt water. Even though it may seem cold here, it’s still considered a tropical paradise compared to Mars and the outer planets.

Planet watching
Mercury can be seen in the first week of February in the southwest evening twilight sky. It reappears on Feb. 15 in the dawn southeast dawn twilight sky and becoming brighter.
Venus appears in the southeast dawn sky and becomes brightest on Feb. 15. Mars rises during late evening. The summer solstice for the northern hemisphere of the planet also occurs. Jupiter can be seen in the evening sky. Saturn rises after midnight.
Feb. 6: If you have a telescope, the shadows of moons Europa and Callisto can be seen crossing the face of Jupiter.
Feb. 10: The moon is below Jupiter in the evening sky.
Feb. 14: Hamilton Amateur Astronomers meeting 7:30-9:30 p.m., Hamilton Spectator, 44 Frid St. McMaster Astronomer Robert Cockcroft will discuss ancient Egyptian astronomy. Free admission with door prizes and everyone is welcome. An optional food bank donation of non-perishable goods will be collected. There is also a full moon.
Feb. 18: During the evening, from a dark location, you could see sunlight reflecting off dust particles in the solar system. This light is called the Zodiacal light and can be seen for the next two weeks. From midnight to dawn the Moon, Spica and Mars form a triangle.
Feb. 21: The moon is close to Saturn in the early morning sky.
Feb. 26: The crescent moon is close to Venus in the dawn sky.
Feb. 27: The crescent moon is close to Mercury in the dawn sky.
For more information, see the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers website at www.amateurastronomy.org or call 90-627-4323. If you would like to learn more about the night sky, the club offers a basic astronomy course for new members.
Mario Carr, the author of this report, is the club’s director of public education and can be reached at mariocarr@cogeco.ca.

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