Skywatching Events for February 2011
Stargazers on the Isle of Sark, in the Channel Islands off the coast of England, enjoy the wonder of the Milky Way.
Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor

Here's a look at the most promising skywatching events in February 2011:

Moon Phases

Wed., February 2

New Moon, 9:31 p.m.

The Moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the sun, but can be seen low in the southeast as a narrow crescent the morning before, just before sunrise. It is visible in the low westsouthwest the evening after New Moon.

Fri., February 11

First Quarter Moon, 2:18 a.m.

The First Quarter Moon rises around 10 a.m., and sets around 1 a.m.

Fri., February 18

Full Moon, 3:36 a.m.

The Full Moon of February is usually known as the Wolf Moon. In Algonquian it is called Snow Moon. Other names are Hunger Moon, Storm Moon, and Candles Moon.

In Hindi it is known as Magh Poornima. Its Sinhala (Buddhist) name is Navam Poya. The Full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long. The rest of the month, the moon spends at least some time in the daytime sky.

Thu., February 24

Last Quarter Moon, 6:26 p.m.

The Last or Third Quarter Moon rises around 2 a.m. and sets around 11 a.m. It is most easily seen just after sunrise in the southern sky.

Observing Highlights

Fri., February 11, early evening

Moon close to the Pleiades

The First Quarter Moon passes just south of the brightest star cluster in the sky, the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus.

Mon., February 14, 3 a.m.

Moon close to Messier 35

The waxing gibbous Moon passes close to the open cluster Messier 35 in Gemini.

Sun., February 20–Sat., March 5

Zodiacal Light

Visible in the west after evening twilight, the faint glow of interplanetary dust particles.

Planets

Mercury is too close to the Sun all month to be observed. Superior conjunction is on February 25.

Venus is a brilliant “morning star” all month.

Mars is too close to the Sun to be observed. It is in conjunction with the Sun on February 4.

Jupiter is in the western sky in the early evening, setting around 9 p.m. It spends most of the month in Pisces, but begins a brief visit to the constellation Cetus on February 24. Yes, Cetus!

Saturn rises around 10 p.m. and is visible the rest of the night in Virgo. Its rings have returned to their usual glory after being on edge for the last two years.

Uranus is in Pisces all month. It sets around 8:30 p.m.

Neptune is too close to the Sun to be observed. It is in conjunction with the Sun on February 17.

Notice that no less that three planets are in conjunction with the Sun this month.

This Sky Calendar is provided by Starry Night Education with contributions by Larry Sessions and Geoff Gaherty.