1 Moon passes Regulus
7 Last Quarter Moon passes Jupiter
8 Moon passes Mars
11 Moon, at apogee (252,090 miles from Earth), passes Saturn
12 Moon passes Pluto
15 New Moon causes a partial solar eclipse, visible from Antarctica, southern South America, and the Falkland Islands. This New Moon is also the start of the Chinese New Year, Also called the Spring Festival. 2018 is the Year of the Dog.
16 Moon passes Venus and Neptune
20 Moon passes Uranus
23 First Quarter Moon passes Aldebaran
27 Moon at perigee (226,137 miles from Earth)
NEWS OF THE WORLD
This month, everything in the evening sky is very close to the horizon and sets soon after the Sun. Venus (mag.-3.9) pops up there just as Neptune (mag.8) starts disappearing into the sunset. The two meet a slender crescent Moon on February 16 (get out early, they’ll all set by 6:30), and stay close together through the 21st. Mercury (mag.-1.4) passes behind the Sun (superior conjunction) on February 17, appears on the 25th beside Neptune, and meets Venus on the 28th.
Next up is Uranus (mag.6) in Pisces. It sets around 11 PM at the beginning of February, and at 9 PM at month’s end.
But the main action is after midnight. Jupiter (mag.-2.0) rises around 1:30 AM in Libra, progressing to a midnight rising and brightening to mag. -2.2 by month’s end. Mars (mag.1.2, brightening to 0.8) appears about an hour later at the other end of the constellation. Finally, Saturn (mag.0.6) rises around 4:50 AM in Sagittarius. By the end of the month it’s coming up at 3:10 AM.
Note to calendar mavens: Both Blue Moons and “Supermoons” have been quite common so far this year. Last month we had two full moons; this month there are none; and next month we’ll have two again!
Groundhog Day (February 2) marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. In the Christian calendar, this is the Presentation, when according to the Gospel of Luke Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple 40 days after his birth. There Simeon called him “a light to the nations,” so the feast features a procession with lighted candles, giving the day its other name, “Candlemas.”