The February 2019 Night Sky

Welcome to the February night sky. The cold clear nights of winter are ideal to see the grand constellation of Orion and the Milky Way. On dark moonless nights, the Milky Way is visible from the southern horizon up past the constellation of Orion and stretching over to the zenith.

The Milky Way is our galaxy seen from the inside and it consists of hundreds of billions of stars and clouds of dust and gas that block our view of the distant universe that lies beyond.

If we look towards the east and upwards to the constellation of Leo, this is the area of our winter night-sky that allows us to look beyond our galaxy to see the hundreds of billions of other galaxies that populate our universe. Although many of these galaxies are bigger and brighter than our own, they are so far away that we need a telescope to see them.

There are no bright planets visible during February evenings, except for the red planet Mars seen high up in the southwest. Mars is much fainter now than it was last year and the best way to locate Mars will be on the 10th of the month when the almost quarter Moon will be just below the red planet.

The faint and distant planet Uranus happens to be just two degrees to the left of Mars currently, but you need at least a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see it. It will appear as a faint greenish starlike object just slightly too faint to see with an aided eye.

The full Moon of the 19th is a so-called supermoon, when the Moon will be seen to be slighter larger than normal as it is in the part of its orbit that brings it closer to the Earth. This is one of three supermoons visible in 2019, specifically in January, February and March.

In January, a Chinese space probe called Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the Moon in an area called the south pole basin. This marks the continuation of China’s intention to eventually set up a manned lunar base at the Moon’s south pole.

This area is believed to have hidden water ice at the bottom of deep dark craters, and this is essential for a permanent manned lunar base that the Chinese have planned to be operational before 2030.

The Moon is new on the 4th, first quarter on the 12th, full on the 19th and last quarter on January 26.

By Clive Jackson
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Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
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To see the February Sky Map click on the pdf link below