Podcaster: Rob Webb
Title: Observing With Webb in February 2019
Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School
Description: A great morning lineup in the beginning of the month, a conjunction mid-month, all the naked-eye planets visible at some point in the month, winter constellations, and a great lineup ending the month is making February look like a GREAT month for naked eye astronomy.
Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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A great morning lineup in the beginning of the month, a conjunction mid-month, all the naked-eye planets visible at some point in the month, winter constellations, and a great lineup ending the month is making February look like a GREAT month for naked eye astronomy.
New Moon – 4th (darkest skies)
First Quarter Moon – 12th (Visible until midnight)
Full Moon – 19th (Visible all night)
Last Quarter Moon – 26th (Visible from midnight into the morning)
Jan 30th – Feb 2nd – Morning Lineup #1 – Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon will all be lined up in the SSE these four mornings. Jupiter will be the highest planet, rising after 4am, with the brightest planet Venus trailing only 8˚ behind. Saturn will be the hardest to find, very low on the horizon around 6:30am, and 20˚ down and to the left of Venus. Where does the Moon come in? On the 30th, it’s above Jupiter, and on the very next day it travels to within 2˚ to the right of Venus. Feb 1st it will be directly in between Venus and Saturn. February 2nd will be a challenge, but binoculars will help you find Saturn and an extremely thin crescent Moon down and to the left.
10th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mars – Get out after sunset, find the crescent Moon, and Mars will be about 6˚ up to the right until they set around 11pm.
18th – Conjunction – Saturn, Venus – Get out in the morning after 5am but before 6:30ish and look low in the SE for Saturn and Venus less than 1˚ apart. Venus will be MUCH brighter and only a pinky’s width away from Saturn. Don’t forget to check this out on the couple of days before and after, as the planets will still be close together.
26th – March 3rd – Morning Lineup #2 – Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus – Any time after 5am these mornings, you’ll see the three planets lined up (bright Venus is lowest, dimmer Saturn a fist-width to the right and up a little bit, and Jupiter 2.5 fist-widths further from Saturn), with the Moon traveling through. Get outside on the night of January 20th and find the full Moon.
At 10:10 p.m. EST, the penumbral portion will start. You probably won’t see anything happen though, since this is the lighter portion of the Earth’s shadow, and it barely dims the Moon’s surface.
At 10:34 p.m. EST, the partial eclipse begins. This is when the dark inner portion of the Earth’s shadow starts to engulf the Moon, taking about an hour to “eat it up”, leaving the eaten portion a dark red hue.
At 11:41 p.m. EST TOTALITY begins. If you start looking around now, look almost straight above you for a dark Moon. The Moon is completely within the Earth’s shadow, but it will still appear a reddish/orange, since some sunlight has passed through the Earth’s atmosphere and, in passing, lost the BIV part of its spectrum and bent toward the Moon. Essentially, you are witnessing the light from all of the sunsets and sunrises on Earth projected onto the Moon all at one time. The Moon will be darkest at mid-eclipse, at 12:12 a.m.
26th – Moon is up and to the right of Jupiter
27th – Crescent Moon is just 2˚ above Jupiter
28th – Crescent Moon is in between Jupiter and Saturn
3/1 – Crescent Moon is about 3˚ up and to the right of Saturn
3/2 – Crescent Moon is about 5˚ to the right of Venus
3/3 – VERY THIN crescent Moon 6˚ down and to the left of Venus
(see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month)
Orion & his winter companions –By 7pm, Orion is about as high as it will get for the night about halfway up the southern sky, tempting us to tour the winter constellations. Begin by finding Orion by looking for three stars in almost a straight line and close to each other, Orion’s Belt, which is surrounded by a bigger, vertical, almost rectangle of stars. Orion will be our guidepost for the other winter constellations. Start at the left belt star and draw a straight line connecting them, then continue that line far past the last belt star about 20˚ or two fist-widths held at arm’s length. There you’ll find the V constellation Taurus, with bright red Aldebaran at the top left of the V. Taurus is part of a big cluster of stars known as the Hyades. Remember that line you just made? Follow it just 10˚ further (one fist-width) and you’ll find a mini-mini-dipper of stars call the Pleiades, which is another open cluster of stars within our Milky Way Galaxy. Let’s go back to the belt, but draw the connecting line from right to left, and continue about 20˚ past the belt, where you’ll find the brightest star in the sky, Sirius. Perhaps you can also see the constellation Canis Major, known as the big dog. We’ll stop there for this month, and pick up next month with Gemini, Auriga, and Canis Minor.
Auriga, Gemini – Look almost straight up, and you’ll find a pentagon shaped constellation which is the Charioteer Auriga, with its brightest star Capella. Gemini, the twins, will be to the left of Auriga, with bright Castor and Pollux heading them up. For reference, Orion will be below both of them.
Leo, Big Dipper – Leo will be more to the West than before, but the Big Dipper will be super big and bright above Leo’s backward question mark.
Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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