By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies for February 2019

Moon and 3 planets seen at dawn at start and end of February, Moon – Mars on 10th, Full moon on 19th

February opens with a 7:26 a.m. sunrise and a 5:37 p.m. sunset. Daily sunlight then lasts 10 hrs. and 11 min. Each day, the sun rises about a minute earlier while the sun sets about a minute later than the previous day.

For the first 16 days of February the sun appears in front of Capricornus and then moves into Aquarius. As February ends, sunrise is 6:53 a.m. and sunset is 6:08 p.m. Daily sunlight then lasts  11 hrs. and 15 minutes.

At dawn at the start of February, there is a low arch of sky objects from the Southeast to the South Southeast.  From left to right, the sky objects are the planet Saturn, the crescent moon, the brilliant planet Venus, the bright planet Jupiter and the  pinkish star Antares (of Scorpius).  On February 18, the brilliant planet Venus and the planet Saturn will be only 1 degree apart in the 6 a.m. dawn.  As February ends, the low arch of sky objects in order from left to right will be brilliant Venus, Saturn, the crescent moon, the bright planet Jupiter and the pinkish star Antares.

In the evening sky, the crescent moon will first appear on February 8 in the western dusk. On February 10, the moon will appear 6 degrees to the lower left of the planet Mars. On February 12, the evening moon will appear half full with its right side lit up by the sun. Along the moon’s left edge, the sun is rising, lighting up the raised crater rims and elevations in that part of the moon (as seen with a telescope). On the next night, the moon will be near the bright star Aldebaran (of Taurus). On February 16, the moon will be close to the stars Pollux and Castor or Gemini. On February 19th, the moon will be full and close to Leo’s belly. On February 26, the moon will appear half full (like a reversed ‘D’) in the Southern dawn.

February is the month to see Orion in the southern evening sky.  Orion’s trademark is his belt of three stars in a row. The belt points down and left to Sirius, the night’s brightest star and the closest night star we can see from the middle of the United States. Sirius is 8.6 light years away, so we see this star as it was in 2010. Orion’s belt points up and to the right to Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus. Aldebaran appears to be in a star cluster named the Hyades. But the Hyades is about twice as far away as Aldebaran.  Both the Hyades and Aldebaran are a beautiful sight through binoculars.