February 2021

Bright Sky Digest 

Monthly SAS Newsletter
SAS Winter Astrophotography Contest Entry
Abhishek Desikan

Happy February!

This month we are excited to be celebrating Black History Month with a feature column about Dr. Mae C Jemison and her profound impact as the first black women in the NASA astronaut program. In addition, our very own Bob Mulford tells you all about what is in the sky this month including Mars and notable winter constellations. Furthermore, we are excited to announce that we had an amazing turn-out at our last months New Members & Volunteering Info Session capping at almost 60 attendees! We are so excited to connect our community with the shared love of astronomy and we look forward to seeing you all at our annual SAS Banquet this month.

Upcoming Events

2021 SAS Annual Banquet
Robertson Miller, SAS Winter Astrophotography Contest Entry

Tuesday, February 9th,
7:00 PM -9:00 PM:
Astrophotography Special Interest Group Meeting 
Greg Synder, SAS Winter Astrophotography Contest Entry

Wednesday, February 17th,
7:30 PM-9:00 PM:
SAS Monthly General Meeting

Dr. Mae C Jemison

DuWayne Andrews, Jr.

When Mae was a child, she loved to read about science and astronomy. As a kindergartener, she already knew she wanted to be a scientist.  When she learned about Martin Luther King Jr., she saw his call to action to help people. To answer this call, she decided to become a doctor.

When Mae witnessed actress Nichelle Nichols portray the role of Lieutenant Uhara in Star Trek, Mae then applied to the NASA space program.  She became the first black woman in the astronaut program in 1987. Furthermore, she became the first African American woman to fly in space on the shuttle, Endeavour, a few years later in 1992.
When Mae left NASA in 1993, she founded and created her own company, the Jemison Group.  This company seeks to encourage students to get into science and bring advanced technologies to schools worldwide.  She also created the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. This foundation launched The Earth We Share , which is a children’s science camp.

Stargazing in Seattle

Bob Mulford

Mars is the only bright planet that is easily visible in February, but Mars and Earth are getting farther apart and as a result, the red planet fades by almost a half magnitude during February. Like two cars on a race track, Earth has the inner lane and is moving faster, leaving Mars behind in the race around the Sun.
The early evening sky in February is dominated by the conspicuous constellations of winter with a profusion of bright first magnitude stars. The most striking constellation is Orion the Hunter. This star group is marked by a group of three equally spaced bright stars in a straight row, which represent the hunter’s belt. There is nothing else like this group in the sky. It’s easy to recognize, high in the south this month, and it’s a key to locating the other winter constellations.

February Evening Looking South
(Graphic created with Stellarium)

Below and to the right of the belt is the brilliant blue-white star Rigel [RYE-jel]. Above and to the left of the Belt stars is the orange-colored Betelgeuse [pronounced BET-el-jooz, not Beetlejuice, which is a movie]. Extend Orion's belt to the left, and you come to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Now, imagine an equilateral triangle with Betelgeuse at the upper right corner and Sirius at the bottom. The bright star marking the upper left corner of this triangle is Procyon [PRO-see-on]. Sirius and Procyon are the Dog Star and the Little Dog Star, in the Constellations Canis Major (the large dog) and Canis Minor (the small dog). Traditionally, they represent two hunting dogs accompanying Orion.
Finally, extend the belt of Orion to the right and you will come to the bright orange star Aldebaran [al-DEB-ah-ran], the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran is traditionally considered to mark the eye of Taurus. Congratulations, you now know how to find four constellations of the winter sky.
This month, the red planet Mars is located to the right of Aldebaran and is about the same brightness. Mars is moving in front of the fixed stars as it circles the Sun. The graphic above shows the location of Mars at mid-month. The dotted red arrow in the graphic shows the motion of Mars from February 1st to February 28th. We can look forward to early March, when Mars will provide a photo op as it passes within three degrees of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster.

Member Spotlight

Sierra Wollen, Trustee

Name: Sierra Wollen

Member Since: December 2020

Location: South Seattle (Othello)

Hobbies: Hiking, taichi, yoga, board games, mushroom hunting, fostering cats, watching nature documentaries, traveling, swimming

Favorite Space Movie, Show, or Character: I have to go with Contact. Carl Sagan is one of my heroes, and the possibility of coming into contact with extraterrestrial intelligence is extremely exciting to me!

Favorite Space Fact: That everything in the universe was once contained in a single, tiny point. Everything is interconnected!

Favorite Space Related Memory: Camping along the Deschutes river during a rafting trip when I was 13 and seeing the Milky Way in full for the first time. It shook me to realize it was always there, whether I could see it or not. 

Hopes & Goals: I’m really looking forward to getting to know this wonderful community of talented astronomers, photographers, educators, and enthusiasts. When I was younger, visiting observatories and listening to experts present on their research triggered an intense fascination with the world around me. I’m excited to be part of a community that is working to provide that experience to everyone who wants it in a fun and accessible way!

Want to nominate someone for the next member spotlight?
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