GARRETT COUNTY SKIES
By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies February 2020

Venus blooms in Western Dusk, Jupiter creeps into Southeastern Dawn, Full moon on evening of 9th

February opens with an Oakland dawn beginning at 6:25 a.m., Sunrise at 7:26 a.m., Mid day at 12:30 p.m.,

Sunset at 5:36 p.m., Dusk ending at 6:36 p.m. Sunlight that day lasts 10 hrs. and 11 min. The sun appears in

Capricornus in early February, shifting to Aquarius later in the month. As February ends, Dawn begins at 5:54 a.m., Sunrise at 6:52 a.m., Mid day at 12:30 p.m., Sunset at 6:06 p.m. and Dusk ending at 7:07 p.m. Sunlight that day lasts 11 hrs. and 16 min. So each day in February has about 2 more minutes of sunlight than the previous day.

The evening moon will be half full on February 1st. So the first few days of February will be excellent for spotting the moon’s surface features with a telescope. Two evenings later, the moon will appear near Aldebaran, the bright star marking the eye of Taurus, the Bull. On the evening of February 9th, the moon will be full, appearing near the bright star Regulus, the star at the heart of Leo, the Lion. Just before midnight of February 13th, the moon will be near Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. At dawn on February 18th, the crescent moon will appear close to the planet Mars in the Southeast. On the next morning, the crescent moon will appear close to the bright planet Jupiter. On February 20th, the crescent moon will appear close to the pale planet Saturn. On February 23, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon). On February, the 27th, the crescent moon will appear to the left of the planet Venus in the western dusk.

At the start of February, the evening star, the brilliant planet Venus will then be 101 million miles away and setting just before 9 p.m. in the West. Venus will then be at an angle of 40.5 degrees from the sun. At the end of February, Venus will then be 82.6 million miles away, at an angle of 44.6 degrees from the sun and setting about 9:45 p.m.  Unfortunately, Venus is covered with high clouds; all we can see are Venus’ phases (lighted shapes) with a telescope. Galileo discovered this in 1610; only if Venus orbited the sun would a complete set of phases be seen.

The planet Mars is a modest point of light in the Southeastern dawn. Look for Mars about 5 a.m. Below and to the right of Mars is the bright pinkish star (Antares means ‘rival of Mars’). The bright planet Jupiter appears low in the Southeast and can be seen about 6 a.m. Both Mars and Jupiter will be prominent in the  evening sky this fall.

February is Orion’s month when the celestial hunter appears half way up in the South from 7 – 9 p.m. Orion’s trademark is his belt of three stars in a row. This belt points left and down to Sirius, the night’s brightest star. Orion’s two brightest stars are pinkish Betelgeuse (shoulder star to the left) and white blue Rigel (foot star to the right).  The Big Dipper of 7 stars is in the North Northeast with its bowl on top and handle below. The two top bowl stars point left to the North Star, a modest star about half way up in the North.

Still available is my 2 page 2020 Night Sky Highlights with key information on the sun, moon, bright planets and rising and setting times of the sun for every Sunday in 2020 in Oakland and nearby communities. Request a copy from rdoyle@frostburg.edu .If you don’t have internet access, have a friend or relative print it out for you. No charge or copy right.