SkyEye

February 2018

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Date Body Event
1 Moon occultation of Regulus: visible from northern Europe, northern Asia and northwestern Alaska
2
3
4
5
6
7 Moon last quarter
8
9
10 Jupiter west quadrature
11 Moon apogee
12
13
14 3 Juno conjunction
Moon descending node
15 Moon, Mercury occultation of Mercury - not visible
Earth, Moon partial solar eclipse
Moon new
16 Moon, Venus occultation of Venus - not visible
17 Mercury superior conjunction
18
19
20
21 Venus, Neptune 0.6° apart
22
23 Moon first quarter
Moon occultation of Aldebaran: visible from northeastern North America, Greenland, Iceland, most of Europe, and north and central Asia
24
25 Mercury, Neptune 0.5° apart
26
27 Moon perigee
Moon 2.0° south of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
28 Moon ascending node

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

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Sun CapricornusAquarius

Mercury CapricornusAquarius

The closest planet to the Sun is a morning sky object but is difficult to see due to its proximity to our star, reaching superior conjunction on 17 February. Northern hemisphere observers will get the best end-of-month views when Mercury reappears in the west after sunset. It passes within 0.5° of faint Neptune on 25 February but this event is likely to be unobservable.

Venus CapricornusAquarius

The evening star is quite low in the west at sunset but is slowly rising above the horizon as the month progresses. It is only 0.6° away from Neptune on 21 February but this event will be difficult to see due to still-light skies.

Earth and Moon

The New Moon partially eclipses the Sun on 15 February. Like last month, two first-magnitude stars are occulted by the Moon. Regulus, in the constellation of Leo, vanishes behind the lunar disk on the first day of the month, and Aldebaran, brightest star in Taurus, is occulted on 23 February.

Mars ScorpiusOphiuchus

The red planet is best seen from the tropics and the southern hemisphere. It is a morning sky object, rising just after midnight for those observing it from southern latitudes. However, Mars remains low in the southeast for those looking for it from the northern hemisphere.

Jupiter Libra

Its position in the sky means the Jupiter is best viewed from the southern hemisphere. At magnitude -2.0, it is easily the brightest object in Libra. The largest planet in the solar system reaches west quadrature on 10 February, resulting in interesting interplay between the shadows cast by the planet and its largest moons.

Saturn Sagittarius

Like the other bright superior planets, Saturn is best observed from points south of the equator. It now rises before dawn.

Uranus Pisces

Uranus is getting increasingly difficult to see in the evening twilight as it approaches conjunction with the Sun in mid-April. Look for it in the west after sunset.

Neptune Aquarius

At solar conjunction early next month, the most distant planet in the solar system is virtually unobservable this month.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Mid-month Northern Hemisphere Equator Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S