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What’s up in the sky, Feb ’08

posted Feb 3, 2009, 8:30 AM by Marvin Stewart

October 1, 1847, Maria Mitchell was making observations from her fathers roof top observatory with his 4″ telescope. She was looking at an area of the sky about five degrees from Polaris when she spotted a star she had never seen before. She recorded it, and the next night searched for it again, it had moved. She had discovered what would become known as ” Miss Mitchell's Comet.”

Maria’s father had taken a job as cashier for a bank. He had an interest in astronomy, and spent his nights doing star observations for the United States Coast Guard. Maria assisted him and had memorized the night sky. Mr Mitchell sent Maria\’s information to Professor William Bond at Harvard University Observatory. The king of Denmark had offered a gold medal to anyone who discovered a comet with a telescope. Professor Bond dutifully forwarded Maria\’s information to him. However two days after Maria found the comet, a Vatican astronomer, Father Francesco de Vico also found the comet, His information reached the king first and he was awarded the medal. About a year later the confusion was cleared up and Maria Mitchell had a comet named for her, and also received the medal.

She began to get messages from scientist around the world congratulating her. She would go on to persue a career in astronomy, In 1865 she accepted a position as professor of astronomy and director of the college observatory at Vassar College. Maria Mitchell studied sun spots, and the features of Jupiter and Saturn and photographed stars. She was happy, she now had twelve inch scope to use.

If you observe the Moon through a telescope, find the prominent crater Aristoteles, it�is best seen when the Moon is about five days old. Overlapping the eastern wall of Aristoteles is a small crater eighteen miles wide. Mitchell Crater, named for Maria Mitchell the first American woman astronomer.

Feb 02 First quarter Moon.

09 Full Moon. First of 4 eclipses for \’09, an annular, visible to residents of Antarctica.

13 Mercury reaches greatest elongation.

16 Last quarter Moon.

17 Mars passes 0.6 deg. south of Jupiter.

19 Venus is at its brightest.

22 The Moon passes 1.1 deg north of Mercury.

23 The Moon passes 0.7 deg. north of Jupiter.

24 New Moon.

27 The Moon passes 1.3 deg. south of Venus.