BACKYARD STARGAZER: Sights to see in February 2022
By Francis Parnell
It’s February, and on the 2nd, according to the ancient Celts, it’s Imbolc, the first day of Spring.
It’s one of the four Cross Quarter days that fall halfway between Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.
On the 2nd at dusk, look west-southwest to spot a very thin crescent Moon, just one day past new, 4 degrees lower left of Jupiter. A clear horizon will definitely help.
On the 3rd at dusk, the slightly fatter lunar crescent is about 14 degrees upper left of Jupiter.
At dusk on the 8th and high in the south-southwest, the first quarter Moon shines about 6 degrees below the Pleiades, the famous open star cluster in Taurus, the Bull. Use binoculars to get a good view of the Pleiades.
At 9 p.m. on the 13th, find the waxing gibbous Moon in Gemini, below and in line with the twins, Castor and Pollux. Pollux is about 4 degrees above the Moon, while Castor is 5 degrees above Pollux. Nice celestial lineup.
Watch the full Snow Moon rising on the 16th. Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans of the Midwest and Northeast gave names to the full Moon of every month. The heaviest snows usually fell in February, so the full Moon was the Snow Moon.
Before dawn on the 24th, early risers can catch the just past last quarter Moon 3 degrees left of Antares, the heart of Scorpius, the Scorpion. Neat naked-eye sight, but binoculars give a better view of red Antares and Earthshine on the dark portion of the lunar disc.
About 45 minutes before sunrise on the 26th, look southeast to see the waning crescent Moon among the stars in the handle of the “Teapot” of Sagittarius. To the left is brilliant Venus with red Mars about 7 degrees below right of Venus.
FAST FACT: When celestial bodies are closely aligned like the Moon, Castor, and Pollux on the 13th, it’s called a conjunction. On average, the Moon moves its own diameter in an hour. Using Castor and Pollux as reference points, watch closely for about 20 minutes and you’ll notice the Moon has shifted its position. You’ll see the Moon moving along its orbit!
Stay curious about the night sky and “Keep looking up!”