Astronomy

Evening Planets:
Mars is up in the SW as evening darkness falls. The planet experiences more dimming as the month progresses. The dull planet will be in the evening sky until August. The planet sets just before 11 pm all month long. As the planet dims down, its colors will also be less vivid.
Mercury makes a fair evening appearance during the latter half of the month. The planet should start to be visible in the West after 12 February. Each evening, Mercury gets a little bit higher above the horizon. Mercury reaches its highest altitude for this evening showing on 26 February. On that date the planet will set about 1hr after Sunset. Mercury highest altitude on the 26 February isn’t that high so that’s why it only puts on a fair showing. Mercury will hold its altitude position until the end of the month then it will lose altitude and sets earlier each evening.

Morning Planets:
Jupiter is now the first of the morning planets to rise up in the SE. The planet now rises before Dawn breaks and each morning is gaining a bit more altitude. Each morning, Jupiter is moving farther away from Venus and to her right.
Venus rises after Jupiter does in the SE. Each morning, Venus is rising later and is slowly moving away from Jupiter. Venus dims down as the month progresses. Venus is moving toward Saturn. The two planets are near each other on 16 February. After that date, Venus will slowly move to the lower left and away from Saturn. This is the last month for Venus to be in a fairly good position in the Pre- Dawn skies. Next month Venus will lose its altitude and move into a poor display position.
Saturn rises after Venus in the SE for about the first half of the month. The planet is moving towards Venus. After the Venus Saturn conjunction on 16 February; Saturn will move past Venus and also be on Venus upper right. Then Saturn will be rising before Venus.

2 Feb Crescent Moon lower left of Saturn, Dawn
6 Feb Thick Crescent Moon lower left of Mars, Evening
16 Feb Venus / Saturn Conjunction, Dawn
19 Feb Perigee Full Moon
26 Feb Last Quarter Moon above bright star Antares, Dawn
27 Feb Moon just above Jupiter, Dawn

February’s Perigee Full Moon:
A larger than normal Full Moon often attracts social media attention as a “Super Moon”. This February, the Full Moon is going to be a real super moon. The Full Moon on the morning of 19 February will be at perigee (the closest to Earth). This event will happen at 4 am. This closeness will cause the Full Moon to appear larger and brighter than normal. This perigee event will give us the biggest super moon of the year. If you miss the actual event, the rising Full Moon on the evening of the 19 February will be bigger and brighter than normal.

Dawn Planets Line Up:
During the first few days of February and the last few days of February, the three morning planets will form a large graceful arc in the Dawn skies. The first arc in the early part of the month will be (from right to left) Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. As the month progresses, Venus and Saturn slowly switch places while Jupiter moves more to the upper right. At the end of the month, the arc will be (from right to left) Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. Next month the planets will have moved away from each other and the Dawn planets graceful arc lineup will slowly break up.

Written by
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society