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1st February 2001, 1700 GMT
The night sky in February
Interest in the skies this month centres on the Mir Space Station.

After 15 years of (far from faultless) service, the Russian spacecraft has an appointment with the Pacific Ocean in early March.

Unless skies are fairly clear at the beginning of March this could be the last month in which we will get a chance to look for Mir.

If you still have not seen Mir and are not sure what to be looking for, then remember that it appears as a bright object, brighter than any star.

It cannot be confused with Venus or Jupiter - although these planets are brighter, they do not appear to move on a timescale of a few minutes.
Space station
International Space station

Mir, on the other hand, is only visible for around three or four minutes before it disappears towards the eastern horizon.

From about 11th of the month onwards the International Space Station (ISS) appears well above the horizon.

It will be interesting to see how much brighter this becomes over the coming months and years as subsequent missions from contributing nations add to its size and cause the amount of light reflected back to the Earth to increase.

The evening sky this month will be dominated by Venus. Its magnitude peaks at -4.6 on the 22nd. This compares with around -1 for Mir during the first week of the month. (Remember, the lower the magnitude, the brighter an object appears.)

Jupiter remains bright in the night sky (magnitude -2.4), setting before 2am by the end of the month.

Saturn (magnitude 0.4) is much fainter and lies to the west of Jupiter. Like Jupiter it can be found in Taurus.

Mars (magnitude 0.8) rises around the time of Jupiter’s setting. It will become brighter as the month goes by.

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