February 2016

To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel

 

February is a great month for anyone looking to see the naked eye planets Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury.  The later you stay up, or the earlier you wake up, the more you’ll be able to see.

 

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – None

Planets you can see throughout the night – Jupiter (EàSàSW)

Planets you can see in the Morning – Mercury (SE), Venus (SE), Saturn (SSE), Mars (S), Jupiter (SW)

We have a great lineup of all the naked eye planets (note I did not say “alignment”).  Look in the morning after 6am and you’ll be able to see Mercury very low in the southeast, Venus to the right and up, Saturn to the right and further up, Mars after that in the South, and Jupiter in the southwest. It’s rare to see such a thing, but the earlier in the month you go out, the better, since Mercury gets lower after the first week.

2016-02planets.jpg

Mercury – Most visible on the 7th, visible until the 18th, about 10˚ above the southeastern horizon around 6:30am.  

Venus Venus is beginning its trip back toward the Sun and the evening sky this month.  It is still very visible in the southeastern sky in the morning, close to the horizon. It will typically be up by 6am and will be the brightest object in that area of the sky.

Mars Look East after 1am and Mars will be the bright-ish reddish light in Libra. By sunrise, it will be directly in the South and 35˚ above the horizon.

Jupiter – Look East after 8pm and Jupiter will be the very bright light below Leo the Lion. It will move toward the South and will be in the WSW by sunrise.

Saturn – Saturn will be visible around 3am in the SE, well below and to the left of Mars and up and to the left of Antares, the reddish brightest star in Scorpius.


EVENTS... 

1st – Close Encounter – Moon, Mars – Look SE after 2am and you’ll find a last quarter Moon only 2˚ above the red planet Mars.  If you have trouble finding Mars, or just want to see how red it is compared to other celestial objects, this morning is the time to look. 

3rdClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Look toward the SE on the morning of the 3rd after 4am, and you’ll find Saturn only 5˚ below a crescent Moon. Bright Antares is below and to their right.

6thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus, Mercury – Look toward the SE on the morning of the 6th between around 6am and 7am and you’ll see a VERY thin crescent Moon above Mercury and to the left of bright Venus.  A great picture opportunity.   

New Moon – 8th (darkest skies)

First Quarter Moon – 15th (Visible until midnight)

Full Moon – 22nd (Visible all night)          

23rdClose Encounter – Moon & Jupiter – Jupiter and the Moon start out only 2˚ apart when they rise around 7pm in the east. They drift somewhat apart as they travel up and to the South, eventually ending up in the West at sunrise.

29th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mars – After about 1am, you can see the Moon with Mars about 5˚ below it in the SE, and you’ll be able to see it all the way until sunrise, when they will both be higher up and in the south.


CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is around 5:00-5:30pm) – Perseus, Taurus, Auriga – Extra Challenge! Right in the middle of Perseus is an open cluster called Mel 20.  If you take binoculars and look around Perseus, you’ll see plenty of stars, but right in the middle where Mel 20 is, there are a lot more than you can see anywhere else in Perseus, hence they call it a cluster of stars.

Between Sunset and Midnight – Auriga (Taurus is right nearby), Gemini

Midnight – Cancer, Gemini, Lynx, and Leo later in the month

Early Morning – Corona Borealis, Hercules, Boötes (you can also find the Big Dipper’s handle, and starting from the inside of the handle, follow the arc that those four stars make past the last star in the handle about 30˚ or three fist-widths to the next very bright star you find which is Arcturus, the base of the constellation Boötes.  Hence astronomers use the phrase “Follow the Arc to Arcturus”)

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Winter constellations:  Orion is easy to spot as he is already high in the South when it gets dark.  You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations.

Using Orion:  Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the South.  If you draw a line from the left star to the right star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaron in Taurus (the V).  Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.

Draw a line from the right star in Orion’s belt to the left star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.

Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga.  The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky.  Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga).  It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

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