SkyEye

February 2019

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

The Calendar

Both the farthest apogee and the nearest perigee of the year occur this month. The Moon is full at perigee, leading to a 'Super Moon'.

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Date Body Event
1
2 Moon, Saturn occultation of Saturn — visible from Europe and northwestern Africa
3 Moon descending node
4 Moon new
5 Moon farthest apogee of the year
Moon, Mercury occultation of Mercury
6
7
8
9
10
11
12 Moon first quarter
13 Mars, Uranus conjunction: 1.0° apart
14 Moon 1.7° north of Aldebaran
15
16
17 Moon ascending node
18 Moon 0.6° south of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
Venus, Saturn conjunction: 1.1° apart
19 Moon nearest perigee of the year
Mercury, Neptune conjunction: 0.7° apart
Moon full: Super Moon
20 Mercury ascending node
21
22
23
24
25 Mercury perihelion
26 Moon last quarter
27 Mercury greatest elongation east: 18.1°
28

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 CapricornusAquariusPisces

Northern hemisphere observers are favoured for this evening apparition of Mercury. After conjunction late last month, the closest planet to the Sun appears in the west at sunset and is occulted by the Moon on 5 February. However, both celestial bodies will be too close to the Sun for this event to be visible. Mercury has a close encounter with faint Neptune on 19 February, , appearing less than a degree north of the ice giant. Later, Mercury reaches greatest elongation east on 27 February (a modest 18.1°), two days after its first perihelion of the year.

Venus Sagittarius

Venus dominates the morning skies, especially from equatorial and southern latitudes. It dims slightly as it draws away from Earth, down from magnitude −4.3 to −4.1, even as the phase increases (up to 72% illuminated by the end of the month). On 18 February, Venus is just over a degree north of Saturn with both planets found in the east at dawn.

Earth and Moon

Both the farthest apogee and the nearest perigee occur this month. What's more, Full Moon coincides with the nearest perigee on 19 February, leading to a 'Super Moon' on this date.

Mars PiscesAries

The red planet spends the first nine months of 2019 slowly dimming as it heads toward conjunction. It is visible in the evening and on 13 February, passes just over a degree north of Uranus.

Jupiter Ophiuchus

Shining at magnitude −2.0, Jupiter is the brightest object in Ophiuchus. It appears in the pre-dawn skies above the eastern horizon and is best viewed from the southern hemisphere.

Saturn Sagittarius

The ringed planet is best viewed from southern latitudes where it may be seen low in the east before sunrise. The waning crescent Moon occults Saturn on 2 February in an event visible from around 05:00 UT. Later in the month, on 18 February, Venus, the brilliant morning star, appears 1.1° north of Saturn in what is their closest appulse of the year.

Uranus PiscesAries

Faint Uranus and much brighter Mars come together in the sky on 13 February. An evening sky object like the red planet, Uranus sets around midnight.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is always necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system but even with this optical aid, Neptune is getting increasingly difficult to see in the west after sunset as it heads to conjunction next month. Its proximity to the Sun is demonstrated on 19 February when it is found less than a degree from Mercury.

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