Celestial Delights with the Queen of the Night
During the third week of February, the first quarter moon will assist the casual stargazer locate bright winter stars and two planets. The moon is in first quarter phase, meaning it appears as a half moon lighting up the night sky. This same moon will also play hide and seek with Saturn on the evening of February 20th.
Beginning on Monday, February 18, the moon sits almost halfway between Saturn and Mars. The half moon shines 21 degrees (2 fists) to the upper left of the Red Planet and 26 degrees to the lower left of the Ringed Planet. Look in the WSW sky about one hour after sunset.
The following evening, February 19, the moon is 13 degrees to the lower right of Saturn. Saturn is high over the southeast horizon and is visible for most of the night. The ringed-planet has recently been a temporary eyeball for the constellation Taurus. Nearby is the bright orange star Aldebaran, the usual eyeball in Taurus. Saturn will appear yellow and much brighter than Aldebaran. The bright white Pleiades star cluster is to the upper right (west) of Saturn.
The moon will pass in front of (occult) Saturn on Wednesday, February 20. This will be an event that will delight stargazers all across the eastern part of the United States. Saturn will disappear behind the dark edge of the moon and reappear from the sunlit edge. The event is best viewed with a telescope but binoculars or even an unaided eye can be used to see the occultation.
If you are living in the northern Indiana region, you will be able to observe the moon occult Saturn in the early evening of February 20th. The event will only last for a little over an hour. Find the moon around 7:00 PM and at approximately 7:06, the moon will cover Saturn. Saturn will reappear around 8:21 PM. Hopefully, the skies will be clear so we can all experience this exciting event.
On Thursday, February 21, the moon sits between two giant planets. Look for the moon to be 13 degrees (a fist width) to the upper left of Saturn and 15 degrees to the lower right of Jupiter. The following evening, Friday, February 22, about 3 hours after sunset, the moon passes within just one degree of Jupiter.
The moon is full on Wednesday, February 27. Besides pointing out the planets, and covering Saturn for a brief moment in time, this Full Snow Moon will be the closest moon to earth in 2002. Some stargazers claim they can notice the moon appearing larger and brighter during such times. The real significance of the closest moon of the year comes to those living near a seacoast. They will definitely experience higher than normal tides and a potentially dangerous situation if stormy weather is also predicted for that day.
Be sure to check out all the lunar events from February 18 to February 27. Use the half moon to locate Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Watch it play hide and seek with the Ringed Planet on February 20th. , When the moon appears full on February 27, think of how it will be the closest Waynedale will get to the Queen of the Night all year long!