Astronomy

Evening Planets:
We are starting to get some bright planets moving into the evening sky. Unfortunately, they are poorly placed and will be difficult to see. Next month, the planets situation will improve greatly.
Venus slowly moves into the evening sky. For most of the month, Venus will be very close to the setting Sun and will be very difficult to see. By the end of the month, Venus will be very low in the WSW and should be somewhat easier to see. The planet sets about 45 minutes after Sunset on 28 February.
Mercury suffers the same fate as Venus. For most of the month, the planet is very low and stuck in the bright afterglow of Sunset. The planet will be extremely difficult to see at all. During the last few days of February, the situation improves somewhat for Mercury. By the last day of February, the planet is moving toward Venus in the WSW and sets about 30 minutes after Sunset.

Morning Planets:
Jupiter rises about 2 am in the SE on 1 February. The planet continues to brighten up a bit as the month progresses. By the end of the month, Jupiter is rising around Midnight. Next month, Jupiter will make the move and become an evening planet.
Mars is going in the opposite direction from Jupiter. Mars rises in the SE about 3 am. The planet is moving away from Jupiter in an Eastward movement and heading towards the bright star Antares. This eastward movement keeps Mars from rising earlier each morning. The planet is near the bright star Antares on the 11th and 12th of February. After that, Mars moves away from Antares and starts moving eastward again toward Saturn. Towards the end of the month, Mars has a slight increase in brightness.
Saturn rises about 5 am in the SE on 1 February. The planet is low on the horizon for the whole month. The planet struggles to rise a bit earlier each day. By the end of the month, Saturn rises around 3:30 am.

7 Feb Moon upper right of Jupiter, Dawn
11 Feb Crescent Moon above Saturn, Dawn
16 Feb Very thin Crescent Moon upper left of Venus, Dusk (This will be very difficult to see)
23 Feb 1st Quarter Moon left of bright star Aldebaran, Evening
28 Feb Waxing Gibbous Moon just above the bright star Regulus, Evening

February 2018: No Full Moon:
Last month, January had two Full Moons, one on 1 Jan and one on 31 Jan. It was the timing of the second Full Moon, which caused February not to have any Full Moon. February with its short 28-day month does not have enough days to allow the Moon to do a full cycle from one Full Moon to another. Thus, March with its 31-day longer period month will have enough time to allow the Full Moon to cycle through its phases. March will be like January and have two Full Moons in one month. After March, the Full Moon lunar cycle will fall into a more normal pattern and the rest of 2018 will only have one Full Moon per month. This one Full Moon per month pattern will not change until Oct 2020. In Oct 2020, there will be two Full Moons in one month.

Written by
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society