BACKYARD STARGAZER: A waxing, Snow Moon in February

By Francis Parnell

During February the waxing Moon visits the three brightest planets in the evening sky.
After sunset on the 3rd, look east to see the waxing gibbous Moon and the two brightest stars in Gemini, Castor and Pollux, forming a neat line.

Be sure to watch the Full Snow Moon rising on the 5th.  For Native Americans in the northeast and upper midwest, the heaviest snows fell in February.

Look east-southeast at 11 p.m. on the 10th to view the waning gibbous Moon rising just 2.5 degrees to the left of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.  Spica is 250 light-years away and is actually a double star system.  Both stars are larger than the Sun and the combined light is 2,300 times the solar luminosity.

At dusk on the 21st, face west to spot the thin, waxing lunar crescent about 6 degrees below bright, white Venus, while yellow Jupiter shines upper left of the pair.  Be sure to catch all three before they set.

On the 22nd at dusk, a slightly fatter crescent sits about 1 degree left of Jupiter.  This is a close conjunction, so use binoculars for an impressive view!

One hour after sunset on the 27th, look high in the south to observe the waxing gibbous Moon less than 1 degree to the right of red Mars.  Binoculars are great to observe this close visit!
Since the distance between objects is given in degrees, here’s how it’s done.  Angular measure in the sky can be quickly estimated using the fingers of an outstretched arm.
Have fun measuring the sky, and “Keep looking up!”

Author: Stephan Drew

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