Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sky Events February 2016

Moon Phases

Monday, February 8, 9:39 a.m. EST

New Moon

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 East as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the West an evening or two after New Moon.

Monday, February 15, 2:46 a.m. EST

First Quarter Moon

The First Quarter Moon rises around 10:45 a.m. and sets around 1:15 a.m. It dominates the evening sky.

Monday, February 22, 1:20 p.m. EST

Full Moon

The February Full Moon is known as the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon. It rises around sunset and sets around sunrise; this is 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.

Note that there is no Last Quarter Moon in February in North America, the previous one occurring on January 31 at 10 28 p.m. EST, and the next one occurring on March 1 at 6:11 p.m. EST. This is because, even though there are 29 days in February this leap year, the synodic lunar month (New Moon to New Moon) is 29.53 days long.

Observing Highlights

Mercury, Venus, and the Moon

Saturday, February 6, dawn

A slender crescent Moon will be framed by the planets Mercury and Venus at dawn this morning.

Mercury at greatest elongation west

Sunday, February 7, dawn

Mercury will be at its farthest from the Sun. Because of the angle the ecliptic makes with the horizon, this will be more favorable in the Southern Hemisphere, seen here half an hour before sunrise in Melbourne, Australia.

Aldebaran occulted by Moon

Monday, February 15, evening

The first quarter Moon will occult the bright red star Aldebaran against the backdrop of the Hyades star cluster, as seen from Hawaii, Japan, southern China, and southeast Asia.

Jupiter and the Moon

Tuesday, February 23, 11 p.m. EST

The Moon and Jupiter will rise close together in the southeastern sky.

Zodiacal Light

Wednesday, February 24–Wednesday March 9, evening

The faint glow of the zodiacal light will be visible for the next two weeks in the western sky after the end of evening twilight. It is a faint cone of light following the ecliptic, the green line shown here, quite distinct from the faint glow of the Milky Way to the Northwest.

Double shadow transit on Jupiter

Friday, February 26, 4:37–5:03 a.m. EST

Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa will chase their shadows across the face of Jupiter. The Great Red Spot will also be well placed for observation.


All five naked eye planets will be arrayed across the morning sky for most of the month.

Mercury is well placed low in the eastern sky at dawn for most of the month. It will be at greatest elongation west of the Sun on February 7. This apparition is more favorable for observers in the Southern Hemisphere because of the angle the ecliptic makes with the horizon.

Venus continues to shine brightly at dawn all month, but is dropping towards the Sun. It will be close to Mercury on the 13th.

Mars, in the morning sky, will be in Libra all month. Its tiny disk grows from 7 to 9 arc seconds during the month, as it moves towards opposition on May 22. Observers with good telescopes should begin to see some of the dark markings on Mars’ surface this month.

Jupiter is now rising around 9 p.m. and shines brightly in Leo the rest of the night.

Saturn is well placed in Ophiuchus in the morning sky. Its rings are now spread widely, making it a beautiful sight in a small telescope.

Uranus sets in the west in mid-evening.

Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on 28th, making it too close to the Sun to be observed all month.

Geoff Gaherty
Starry Night Software Support
All graphics © 2016 Starry Night Software