Every month, AY About You outlines the night sky in these easy to digest guides, highlighting the biggest and “brightest” celestial events to help better prepare you for stargazing activities; whether it is as simple as looking up when taking the dog outside, or as official as planning date night — we have you covered.
The dead of winter is one of my favorite times to gaze up the heavens and awe at the wonders of the universe. The air is cool, crisp and clear for some of the most vibrant displays, be it as dazzling as a meteor shower or as routine as a night under the moon.
This month features local astrophotography from Arkansan Tony Milligan. You can find more of his spectacular photos on his website, Captured in Time.
First Quarter: February 1
Full Moon: February 9*
Third Quarter: February 15
New Moon: February 23
*The full moon of February is often called the Snow Moon, simply because of the snowfall that is common at this time of year.
Bonus: February’s full moon is also going to be a “Supermoon,” and will be the fourth-largest full moon of 2020.
No major meteor showers will grace our skies this month.
Planets and Special Events
February 8: Close Approach of the Moon and M44
The Moon makes a close connection with M44 this month, as the pair will pass within 2 degrees of each other. M44 is also known as the Beehive Cluster. It is an open cluster in the constellation Cancer that consists of around 1,000 different stars. Look to the east at around sundown. Best viewing will come through a pair of binoculars or any telescope.
February 10: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation
Mercury will reach its greatest separation from the sun in its orbital cycle. Look to the southwest at sunset.
February 18: Close Approach of the Moon and Mars
The Moon and Mars will pass within 1 degree of each other in the middle of this month. This close approach will be visible to the naked eye. Look to the southeastern horizon just before dawn.
February 19: Close Approach of the Moon and Jupiter
The Moon and Jupiter will also make a close approach of within 1 degree, just one day after the Moon’s with Mars; this one also occurring in the dawn sky. Look to the southeast in the constellation Sagittarius.
In the News
“One of the brightest stars in the sky has been dimming. But, while it might be signaling that it’s ready to explode, it’s probably just fading because of strange, stellar physics…”
Time: 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Location: Hobbs State Park — 20201 E. Highway 12, Rogers, Arkansas 72756
The best stargazing results are always going to be under the darkest of skies. So, if you can, find a place as far away from city lights as possible while stargazing in February 2020.
Dark Sky Arkansas has a fantastic interactive map of some of the best dark spots and observation sites around the Natural State.
Also, if you have not already, download an app to your phone that helps you find celestial objects and constellations in real-time. Sky Guide and Night Sky are both available for free and are extremely easy to use.
Astrophotography courtesy of Tony Milligan. All photography rights, other than those provided for use by AY About You, belong to him.