The Night Sky in February

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    Whatever the temperature in your part of the world, when the weather allows, head outside with a telescope or pair of binoculars because February is always a great month for stargazing. The bright and rich constellations Orion, Canis Major, Taurus, and Auriga dominate the northern sky this month.  There are also five bright planets to see this month, a major lunar-planetary occultation, and a chance to glimpse the glow of the zodiacal light. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month.

    The latter part of the month lends itself to dark sky observing

    February 5th– evening: The Moon above Orion’s weapon

    Saturday night the 8th February. The Moon's orbit around Earth is elliptical, with one side closer to Earth than the other. As a result, the distance between the Moon and Earth varies throughout the month and the year. On average, the distance is about 382,900 kilometers (238,000 miles) from the Moon's center to the center of Earth.  The point on the Moon's orbit closest to Earth is called the perigee and the point farthest away is the apogee.  A Full moon at Perigee appears 30% brighter and 1 4% larger than an apogee full moon.

    10th February
    :  Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation at 18.2o from the Sun. Just a couple of fist-widths above the western horizon about a half-hour after sunset, it’s far lower than Venus but still respectably bright at magnitude 0.0. In a telescope, the disk of Mercury is tiny, just 7” wide, and exactly half lit on this day.

    February 18th – before Dawn: a thin crescent Moon lies just to the right of Mars. This could be a nice photo opportunity.

    After sunset on the 27th, and given a low horizon towards the west, you may be able to spot a very thin crescent Moon lying down to the lower left of Venus.

    February 29th – before Dawn: a line up of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars.

    If clear around 6:30 am on the 29th, one will see a nice line up of, from left to right, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars.  A low horizon towards the southeast will be needed to spot Saturn.

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