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The Skies of February, 2022


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February Skies

by Dick Cookman

February 3, 2022


Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, February Moon

Focus Constellations: Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Lynx, Leo Minor

Comet Journals

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (2021) is in Cancer at 10th magnitude in February. It was at perihelion on November 3 and was closest to Earth on November 12. C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) is a large Oort Belt comet on an hyperbolic orbit with one pass through the inner Solar System. It will be closest to Earth on July 14, 2022, and will reach perihelion on December 19, 2022. It is currently at 10th magnitude in Hercules and may reach naked eye visibility near perihelion.

C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) is in Gemini at 9th magnitude in February. Atlas reached perihelion on January 9 and was closest to Earth on January 6. Comet 19P/Borrelly (2022) is an 8th magnitude evening comet which moves from Pisces to Aries in February. It was closest to Earth on December 11 and will reach perihelion on February 1.

Mars Landers

In late December on the floor of Jezero Crater, Perseverance drilled into and cored Issole which is one of the oldest igneous rock outcrops it will sample. Unfortunately, the core was dumped in mid-January because it could not be sealed in the storage tube for future return to Earth due to fragments clogging the rover’s sample handling system. The rover recently shook out the pebbles which blocked the system and retrieved another sample by again drilling into Issole and obtaining another rock core for analysis and storage.

The Insight lander has survived the latest Martian dust storm and is now coming out of “safe mode”. Mission scientists are evaluating when to return to science activities based upon power availability and the effects of the dust storm.

Researchers at Penn State and NASA in a paper titled “Depleted carbon isotope compositions observed at Gale crater, Mars” propose that organic molecules found by Curiosity Rover may have originated from atmospheric methane derived from either biological matter, volcanic gases altered by complex atmospheric reactions, or interstellar dust and organic molecules from prior passage of the Solar System through a GMC (giant molecular cloud). Further sampling may provided clues to distinguish between these options.

Meteor Showers

Alpha Centaurid Meteor Shower in early February is deep in the southern hemisphere and the Delta Leonid Shower is a minor shower northern hemisphere in late-February.

  • February 8: Alpha Centaurids. Active January 28 - February 21. Radiant 14h00m -59°. ZHR up to 25+. 41 km/sec. Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Unknown.
  • February 25: Delta Leonids. Active February 15 - March 10. Radiant 11h12m +16°. ZHR 2. 23 km/sec. Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Asteroid 1987SY.

Planet Plotting

Predawn skies in February are ablaze with six 1st magnitude stars and four 1st magnitude planets. The planets include Mars (1.4 to 1.3), Venus (-4.5 to -4.4), and Mercury (1.3 to 0.0) in Sagittarius along with Saturn (0.7 to 0.8) in Capricornus. Mars is the dimmest, appearing below and slightly south of brilliant crescent Venus which reaches its brightest apparition of the year On Feb. 12 and climbs higher in the eastern predawn sky throughout February as it approaches greatest western elongation on Mar. 20. Mercury is best seen when it reaches its greatest western elongation on the 16th after which it drops into the glow of sunrise by month’s end. After its conjunction with the Sun on the 4th, Saturn climbs up through the glow of sunrise in February. On the 27th, it joins the cluster of Mercury, Venus, Mars, and a waning crescent Moon between the summer triangle of Altair, Vega, and Deneb above and the red supergiant Antares to the South. Jupiter (-1.9) and Neptune (+7.9) in Aquarius and Uranus (5.8) in Aries are evening planets. Jupiter is visible during the first part of the month before descending into the glow of sunset when near conjunction with the Sun in early March.

PlanetConstellation(s)MagnitudePlanet PassagesTimeDate
SunCapricornus – Aquarius-26.5New Moon12:46AM EST2/1
MercurySagittarius+1.3 to +0.0Maximum West Elongation4:00PM EST2/16
VenusSagittarius-4.5 to -4.4Mars, 7.0°S8:00PM EST2/12
MarsSagittarius+1.4 to +1.3Venus, 7.0°N8:00PM EST2/12
JupiterAquarius-1.9   
SaturnCapricornus+0.7 to +0.8Solar Conjunction2:00PM EST2/4
UranusAries5.8   
NeptuneAquarius+7.9 to +8.0   

February Moon

Lunation 1226 starts with the New Moon of February on the 1st at 12:46AM EST and ends 29.49 days later with the New Moon of March 1 at 12:56AM EST. To the west of the eastern time zone, this New Moon occurs in the late evening on January 31, making it the second New Moon in January, a “Black Moon”.

February’s Full Moon on the 16th at 11:56AM EST is in Leo. It is called “Wolf, Snow, or Hunger Moon”. In the 1760s, Captain Jonathan Carver, who had visited with the Naudowessie (Dakota), wrote that the name used was the Snow Moon, “because more snow commonly falls during this month than any other in the winter.” In colonial America it was the “Trapper’s Moon”. It was named the “Storm Moon” in Medieval England, Celts called it “Moon of Ice”, and the Chinese call it “Budding Moon”. Of the 13 Grandmother Moons during each year, the Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) of Northern Michigan recognize it as “Mkwa-giizis” (Bear Moon). The cultural teaching that explains the cycle of life and nature for the Bear Moon of Creation is to “honor the vision quest that began in the fall. During this time, we discover how to see beyond reality and to communicate through energy rather than sound.” Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 228,533 mi. (57.66 Earth radii) on the 26th at 5:25PM EST. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on February 10 at 4:26AM EST, when the Moon will be at a distance of 252,591 mi. (63.48 Earth radii). The waxing crescent Moon appears to pass the evening planets: Saturn on the 1st, Jupiter on the 2nd, Neptune on the 3rd, and Uranus on the 7th. The waning crescent Moon passes Venus and Mars on the 27th and Mercury and Saturn on the 28th.

PlanetConstellationMagnitudeMoon PassagesMoon PhaseMoon Age
SunSagittarius-26.812:46AM EST, 2/1New0 Days
MercuryCapricornus0.04.0°S, 3:00PM EST, 2/28Waning Crescent27.59 Days
VenusSagittarius-4.59.0°S, 1:00AM EST, 2/27Waning Crescent26.01 Days
MarsSagittarius1.34.0°S, 4:00AM EST, 2/27Waning Crescent26.14 Days
JupiterAquarius-1.94.0°S, 4:00PM EST, 2/2Waxing Crescent1.63 Days
SaturnCapricornus0.74.1°S, 7:00AM EST, 2/1Waxing Crescent0.26 Days
SaturnCapricornus0.84.0°S, 7:00PM EST, 2/28Waning Crescent27.76 Days
UranusAries5.81.2°S, 3:00PM EST, 2/7Waxing Crescent6.59 Days
NeptuneAquarius7.94.0° S, 4:00PM EST, 2/3Waxing Crescent2.63 Days

 


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