Skywatching February 2014

Sun

Date

Sunrise

Sunset

February 1, 2014 7:03 a.m. 5:06 p.m.
February 14, 2014 6:48 a.m. 5:23 p.m.
February 28, 2014 6:27 a.m. 5:40 p.m.

Times are Central Standard Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations.

Daylight continues to increase during the month, with the Chicago area gaining about 1 hour, 10 minutes of daylight during the month.  The sun continues to rise south of east and set south of west.

Moon

Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
New Moon March 1, 2014 (2:00 a.m.) 6:19 a.m. 6:30 p.m.
First Quarter February 6, 2014 (1:22 p.m.) 10:45 a.m. 1:13 a.m. (02/07)
Full Moon February 14, 2014 (5:53 p.m.) 5:27 p.m. 6:44 a.m. (02/15)
Last Quarter February 22, 2014 (11:15 a.m.) 12:33 a.m. 10:41 a.m.

Times are Central Standard Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)

The length of the month (29.5 days) is longer than the number of days in February.  This year, February has no “official” New Moon, which occurs at 2 a.m. on March 1.  The times of the phases have been added to this monthly summary.  These phases can occur at any time and the moon is not necessarily above the horizon in Chicago when the phase occurs.

Evening Sky

Elusive Mercury appears in the western sky during evening twilight early in the month.

lune_merc_140201Just a few days after Mercury’s greatest angular separation from the sun, the waxing crescent moon appears 10 degrees above Mercury on February 1.  The planet rapidly moves back into sun’s glare, passing between our planet and the sun (inferior conjunction) on February,  popping into the morning sky by month’s end.

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Jupiter is “that bright star in the eastern sky” during early evening hours.  It rises in the east before sunset and Jupiter is well up in the eastern sky as the sky darkens.  By mid-month it is in the south at 9 p.m. and sets in the west as Venus rises in the east.  On February 10, the waxing gibbous moon makes a nice pairing with Jupiter.  The pair is separated by about 5.5 degrees.

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Jupiter continues to move westward compared to the starry background (retrograde) during the month.  Its change is evident from week to week.  Notice Jupiter’s separation from Delta Geminorum (the star delta in the constellation Gemini).  The constellation’s brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, are nearby.  The numbers indicate the days in February.

Morning Sky

Brilliant Venus outshines all other stars in the night sky.  It rises in the eastern sky over 2 hours before the sun throughout the month. At mid-month, the planet reaches its greatest brilliancy of this morning appearance, which is about 2 months after the planet passed between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction).  For more about Venus as Morning star, see this summary.

lune_ven_140225-26

While Venus sparkles in the predawn eastern sky throughout the month, the moon pairs with the planet late in the month:

  • February 25, 5:30 a.m. — The waning crescent moon appears 10 degrees to the upper right of Venus
  • February 26, 5:30 a.m. — On the next morning, the moon is 4 degrees to the lower left of the planet.

After appearing in the evening sky earlier in the month, Mercury moves into the morning sky.

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On the morning of February 27, the crescent moon appears about 5 degrees to the upper right of Mercury.

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A few days before its grouping with Venus, the moon passes Mars and Saturn:

  • February 19:  The waning gibbous moon is 3 degrees to the right of Spica and 7 degrees to the lower right of Mars.
  • February 20:  The moon appears, 10 degrees to the left of Spica; 6 degrees to the lower left of Mars; and 20 degrees to the right of Saturn.
  • February 21: The moon is 6 degrees to the right of Saturn.
  • February 22: The moon is 7 degrees to the lower left of Saturn.

Either early in the month or late in the month, all five planets visible to the unaided eye can be seen.

The Visible Solar System

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The chart above shows the solar system as seen from north of the sun on February 14, 2014.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  On this date, Jupiter is the only planet visible in the evening sky.  Mercury is nearing its inferior conjunction, between Earth and Sun.  Saturn, Mars and Venus appear on the morning side of Earth.

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Venus and the Moon This Morning, January 29, 2014

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As 2014’s brilliant Morning Star, Venus shines brightly in the southeastern sky during morning twilight as seen from the Chicago area.  (Click the image to see it larger.)  The waning crescent moon appears to the lower left of Venus.

Read more about Venus as A Morning Star in 2014.

Read more about the planets this month.

Venus, Moon, Saturn, and Mars This Morning, January 28, 2014

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Venus and the moon appeared near each other this morning in the eastern sky as seen from Fairfield County Ohio. (Click the images to see them larger.)  The moon made its first pass with this brilliant Morning Star during the planet’s 2014 morning appearance.  Up close notice that the night portion of the moon is gently illuminated by sunlight reflected from our planet.  This effect is known as “Earthshine.”

DSC00599Meanwhile, Mars passed 5 degrees north of Spica (Virgo) this morning.  Mars continues to appear in Spica’s vicinity for the next several days.  Saturn is moving farther away from Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamli.

Read more about Venus as A Morning Star in 2014.

Read more about the planets this month.

Venus This Morning, January 23, 2014

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Venus is the bright “star” in the southeast this morning. (Click the image to see it larger.) Just 12 days after moving between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction), Venus is now rising about 90 minutes before the sun and is visible in the early morning sky for most of 2014.

Through binoculars, Venus appears as a tiny crescent, resembling a miniature moon, with the day side tilted toward the sun.

Read more about Venus as A Morning Star in 2014.

Read more about the planets this month.

Mars, Moon, Spica, and Saturn This Morning, January 23, 2014

DSC00581The moon appears near the star Spica (Virgo)this morning as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the image to see it larger.)  The moon appears 1 degree to the left of the star.  Mars is about 6 degrees to the upper right of Spica.  The planet passes 5 degrees north of the star next week.  Meanwhile Saturn appears farther to the east (left) of Spica near Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali.

As the moon continue to move eastward, it appears near Saturn on January 25.

Read more about the planets this month.

Venus This Morning, January 21, 2014

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Just 10 days after inferior conjunction and nearly continuous morning clouds, Venus appears in the southeastern sky this morning at 6:45 a.m. CST as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the image to see it larger.)  It is already rising about 80 minutes before the sun.  The rising time continues to increase until late February when Venus rises about 2 hours, 30 minutes before the sun.

Read more about Venus as A Morning Star in 2014.

Read more about the planets this month.

Jupiter and the Moon Tonight, January 16, 2014

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Shining through a thin cloud layer on this moonlit night, Jupiter shines in front of the stars of Gemini, with Castor and Pollux nearby. (Click the image to see it larger.)  Procyon (Canis Minor) also appears in the view.

Read more about the planets this month.