As the closing year of the 20th century powers through its first quarter, our February and March Almanac has no shortage of celestial and historic events to observe.
Who knew a rodent frightened of its own shadow could have so much control over the weather?
PHOTO: TOM AND PAT/PHOTO RESEARCHERS
Everyone has heard of Groundhog Day and Mardi Gras, but February and March have so much more to offer — such as Candlemas. And did you know it was also the start of Haiku season? And from the births of George Washington and Susan B. Anthony to the launch of Gemini 3, February and March are filled with historic events. It's all here in the 1999 February and March Almanac.
1 No full moon this month; Venus now sets about 1 hour and 50 minutes after the sun.
2 Groundhog Day; Candlemas; in easternmost U.S. (NJ, NY, New England) a telescope shows the bright star Regulus coming out from behind the dark right edge of the moon right at moonrise.
3 Temperature this day in 1917 dropped to 27°F in downtown Miami (yes, that's Miami, Florida).
4 Asteroid Vesta at opposition — visible all night long and possibly just bright enough to glimpse with naked eye (see Sky & Telescope magazine for details); start of Japanese first haiku season (originally lunar month) — Sociable Month.
5 On February 4 and 5,1887, a record 3.7 inches of snow blanketed downtown San Francisco.
6 Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard hit a golf ball an estimated 400 yards in low gravity on the moon this day in 1971.
7 Moon rises just left of Mars in the hour before midnight; 15 years ago today, Space Shuttle astronauts Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart did first untethered space walks, using Manned Maneuvering Unit.
8 LAST QUARTER MOON, 6:58 A.m. EST; last astronauts left Skylab space station this day 25 years ago.
9 Temperature hit-66°F this day in 1933 in West Yellowstone, Montana.
10 Pluto resumes its title as farthest planet from the sun ...for about the next 230 years!
11 Temperature dropped as low as -61°F in Montana this day 100 years ago (start of the great 1899 Arctic blast, which soon thereafter covered the entire U.S.).
12 Abraham Lincoln's Birthday; Kansas City hit -22°F this day 100 years ago.
13 Venus and Jupiter now about one fist width at arm's length (10°) apart and closing; Mobile, Alabama, hit -1°F this day 100 years ago.
14 St. Valentine's Day; this day in 1895 the "Big Snow" dumped an incredible 15.4 inches on Galveston, 20-inches-plus on Houston, up to 24 inches in southwestern Louisiana, and 8 inches in New Orleans; 100 years ago today, a snow depth of 34 inches was reached in Washington, D.C., and 41 inches in Cape May (the southernmost tip of New Jersey).
15 Presidents' Day; Susan B. Anthony's Birthday (celebrated both in Florida and in Wisconsin).
16 Shrove Tuesday; Mardi Gras; Chinese New Year — start of year 4697, the Year of the Hare; NEW MOON, 1:39 A.M. EST; annular eclipse of the sun across parts of Indian Ocean and Australia; extremely thin moon may be visible very low in the west about 20 minutes after sunset, as seen from western U.S.
17 Ash Wednesday — Lent begins; spectacular Jupiter Venus-moon line (see text of column).
18 Spectacular moon-Jupiter-Venus triangle; Pluto discovered by Kansas "farm boy" Clyde Tombaugh this day in 1930; San Francisco hit 80°F this day 100 years ago.
19 Saturn-moon-Jupiter-Venus-Mercury arrangement in southwest to west at dusk; sun enters astrological sign Pisces; on this day in 1986, the Soviet Union launched the Mir space station; French Republic calendar month Ventose begins.
20 Moon to upper left of Saturn; the day in 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in space.
21 For at least the next 9 days, your little finger heck arm's length should be able to hide both Venus and Jupiter at the same time (close conjunction!).
22 George Washington's Birthday; A.M. QUARTER MOON, 9:43 P.M. EST.
23 Venus and Jupiter closest to each are a stunning sight.
25 Mercury getting higher, more promir below both Venus and Jupiter.
28 Venus now sets almost 2 1/2 hours after the sun; Jupiter between Venus and Mercury and now almost equal distance from them.
1 Will March come in like a lion today?
2 FULL MOON, 1:58 A.M. EST — first of two full moons this month; Texas Independence Day; Town Meeting Day (in Vermont).
3 Mercury at greatest evening elongation from sun, and greatest height in the west after sunset-but fading rapidly, so find soon.
4 Pluto in same telescopic field of view as the asteroid Juno — but you must have a large telescope, very dark sky, observing experience, and a detailed finder chart to identify and see the tiny, distant planet as a mere speck of light; mathematical halfway point of winter is today or tomorrow.
5 Voyager 1 spacecraft encountered Jupiter 20 years ago today.
6 Moon rises just left of Mars approximately 10:20 P.M. local time; Mercury comes to within 4° of Jupiter in a "quasi conjunction."
8 Rings of Uranus were discovered this day in 1977.
9 Mercury dimming greatly, will be lost from view any night now.
10 LAST QUARTER MOON, 3:40 A.M. EST.
12 Sun enters constellation Pisces.
13 Blizzard of 1888 came to an end this day.
14 Venus and Saturn fit together within the field of view of most binoculars tonight.
15 Andrew Jackson Day (in Tennessee); the Ides of March, when Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C.
16 Jupiter sets only about 1 hour after the sun and is now about 20° (about 2 widths of your fist held at arm's length) from Venus.
17 St. Patrick's Day; NEW MOON, 1:48 P.M. EST
18 Mars, rising brilliant and golden-orange in the middle evening, begins retrograde (westward) motion against the background of the stars.
19 Venus closest to Saturn, about 2.4° apart (see text of column); Mercury at inferior conjunction with the sun.
20 Spring equinox, 8:46 P.M. EST — this marks the start of spring.
21 Alabama tornadoes killed 269 people this day in 1932.
22 Start of Saka Year 1921 (India).
23 This day in 1965 Gemini 3 was launched, and Gus Grissom became the first man to return to space.
24 FIRST QUARTER MOON, 5:18 A.M. EST
25 Feast of the Annunciation.
28 Palm Sunday.
29 Twenty-five years ago today, Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to fly by Mercury (it is still the only to have done so).
30 Venus now sets about 3 hours after the sun — very favorable for observing.
31 FULL MOON, 5:49 P.M. EST, second full moon of the calendar month; high of 108°F this day in 1954 in Rio Grande City, Texas.