Best Night Sky Events for February 2024

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JayTee United States of America
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Best Night Sky Events for February 2024


Post by JayTee »

This is the monthly article I produce for my local newspaper: the Coeur d'Alene Press

Best Night Sky Events for February 2024

Don’t forget that this February brings a Leap Day! Since it takes 365.25 days for Earth to orbit the Sun, our calendar needs to make up for that extra one-quarter of a day every four years.

February 2, 15:18 – Last Quarter Moon
The Last Quarter Moon is the third and final quarter phase of the Moon during its monthly cycle. At this point, the Moon appears half-illuminated, with the left half visible from the Northern Hemisphere and the right half visible from the Southern Hemisphere. This moon is visible after midnight and throughout the morning.

February 9, 15:00 – New Moon
The New Moon is the beginning of the lunar cycle when the Moon is not visible from Earth. It occurs when the Moon is positioned between the Earth and the Sun. Since the illuminated side of the Moon is facing away from us, the night sky will be especially dark, making it an excellent time for stargazing without moonlight interference.

February 11-13 – The Crescent Moon Smiles!
Typically, the crescent Moon looks like an archer’s bow, but for these special few days, the moon appears to smile in the fading twilight. Make time to head out and see it… and let it bring a smile to your face! Photo courtesy of Ron Rhodes.
Smiling Moon.jpg

February 14, 22:15 – Jupiter 2.3° S of Moon
An inexpensive Valentine's present -- Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, will be about 2.3 degrees south of the Moon on this date and time. It will be a wonderful sight to observe these two prominent celestial objects in the same part of the sky.

February 11-15, 19:00 – Look for Comet Pons-Brooks
12P/Pons–Brooks is a periodic comet with an orbital period of 71 years. It fits the classical definition of a Halley-type comet, and is also one of the brightest known periodic comets, reaching an absolute visual magnitude of 5 in its approach to perihelion. Right now Pons-Brooks is around magnitude 8.3 and should be easily found in a pair of 10X50 binoculars. See the accompanying image to find its location.
PonBrooks 215.jpg

February 16, 07:01 – First Quarter Moon
The First Quarter Moon marks the halfway point between the New Moon and the Full Moon. It appears as a half-illuminated disk with the right half visible from the Northern Hemisphere and the left half visible from the Southern Hemisphere and is visible in the afternoon and evening sky.

February 16, 19:00 – Pleiades 3.0° W of Moon
The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters or Messier 45, is a beautiful open star cluster in the constellation Taurus. On this date and time, the Pleiades will be located about 3.0 degrees west of the Moon, creating a stunning visual conjunction.

February 20, 20:00 – Pollux 2.2°N of Moon
Pollux, one of the brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, will be situated about 1.6 degrees north of the Moon on this date and time. The pairing of the Moon and Pollux will be an attractive sight in the night sky.

February 24, 06:30 – Full Moon
The Full Moon is the lunar phase when the entire face of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun and appears as a bright, full disk in the night sky. It is a spectacular sight and is often referred to as the “Snow Moon.”

February 29, 00:00 – Leap Day
February 29th is an Intercalation date, or the insertion of a day in our calendar. It is used to try to ensure that lunar and solar schedules remain compatible and consistent with the tracking of the seasons. Julius Caesar ordered this new “Julian” solar calendar and it took effect in 45 B.C. It was based on the math that a year should consist of exactly 365 days and 6 hours and that every four 365-day years those extra six hours would total to one extra day that needed to be added to the calendar, but this rule of inserting a leap day every four years still overshot the solar year by 11 minutes annually. This discrepancy would accumulate to cause a 10-day difference with the actual solar cycle by the 16th century, leading then Pope Gregory XIII to introduce a new calendar in the 1570s: the Gregorian calendar that we use today, which adjusted the every-four-years rule for leap years to exclude centurials (i.e., 1700, 1800, 1900...) except those divisible by 400 (i.e., 1600, 2000, 2400). According to a Time Magazine article: It would seem safe to assume that humanity had perfected the art of tracking time by now, but one more adjustment was made beginning in 1972: leap seconds, which help to make up for an ever-so-slight remaining difference between Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is based on the Gregorian calendar, and atomic time, which more closely approximates solar time and is slightly faster. But timekeeping is not an exact science—and sometimes it causes so many headaches that experts decide to stop pursuing such precision, such as in 2022, when the world’s foremost metrology body decided to abandon leap seconds altogether by 2035.
∞ Primary Scopes: #1: Celestron CPC1100 #2: 8" f/7.5 Dob #3: CR150HD f/8 6" frac
∞ AP Scopes: #1: TPO 6" f/9 RC #2: ES 102 f/7 APO #3: ES 80mm f/6 APO
∞ G&G Scopes: #1: Meade 102mm f/7.8 #2: Bresser 102mm f/4.5
∞ Guide Scopes: 70 & 80mm fracs -- The El Cheapo Bros.
∞ Mounts: iOptron CEM70AG, SW EQ6R, Celestron AVX, SLT & GT (Alt-Az), Meade DS2000
∞ Cameras: #1: ZWO ASI294MC Pro #2: 662MC #3: 120MC, Canon T3i, Orion SSAG, WYZE Cam3
∞ Binos: 10X50,11X70,15X70, 25X100 ∞ AP Gear: ZWO EAF and mini EFW and the Optolong L-eXteme filter
∞ EPs: ES 2": 21mm 100° & 30mm 82° Pentax XW: 7, 10, 14, & 20mm 70°

Searching the skies since 1966. "I never met a scope I didn't want to keep."

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