By GERRY LEBING
The five planets that are visible to the naked eye will be in the skies simultaneously for most of February. Jupiter starts the month rising in the East at about 8:30 p.m. Mars will follow at 1 a.m., Saturn at 3:06 a.m., Venus at 5:09 a.m., and Mercury at 5:30 a.m.. Astronomical dawn is at 5:34 AM, so all five planets are visible to the naked eye in the sky before daylight begins to make it difficult to view them.
Remember the five planets will not be clustered near the horizon. Venus and Mercury will be very close to the eastern horizon. Saturn will be farther up in the eastern sky. Mars will be just short of overhead. And Jupiter will be in the western part of the sky.
This phenomenon will continue until Feb. 20.
On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12 and 13, the Hatteras Village Civic Association, with the support of the Outer Banks Visitor Bureau, is having a Starry Nights on Hatteras Island program in the village. The Morehead Planetarium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will set up a mobile planetarium at the fire station.
The weekend begins at 5:30 p.m. with registration, along with refreshments, at the Hatteras Village Civic Center. At 7 p.m., the program begins. The discussion of the night sky over Hatteras with viewing opportunities will be led by Nick Eakes, science education specialist at the Morehead Planetarium.
On Saturday, a mobile planetarium will be set up at the fire station. It’s looks like a big, domed tent and can fit about 12 to 20 folks inside, depending on how big they are. Once inside, the sky-watchers can get comfy on cushions for the program.
There will be a program for children on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. While children take their turn in the planetarium, the others will take part in a program by Rhana Parks of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
At 2 p.m., Eakes will lead a program for adults in the planetarium.
At 7 p.m., Eakes will lead another outdoor program on viewing the night skies over Hatteras Island. Depending on wind and weather, the organizers hope to have the program on the beach, at the Sandy Bay parking area north of Hatteras village, or in the village park.
Starry Nights will go on rain or (star)shine, but the organizers have their fingers crossed for a couple of those crystal clear nights.
The cost for the Starry Nights program is $20 per person, though the children’s program on Saturday morning is free for the kids.
For information, go to the events page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/events/1093013937400179/. There is information on the page about accommodations and restaurants. You can also message the organizers through Facebook or call 252-986-2109.