Shawn here… Gordon below is Gordon Johnston’s “Full Moon” post with information about this month’s full moon and other things you can gaze your eyes upon at night (or during the day if you’re looking at a calendar). One other neat note: the Kepler team found a pair of stars orbiting each other that had danced together to create a pattern in the data very apropos for this week. Check it out, then check out Gordon’s post below the pic:
The next full Moon will be on Friday evening, February 14, 2014, appearing “opposite” the Sun at 6:53 pm EST. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on this time, from Thursday evening (maybe even before the Moon sets on Thursday morning) through Sunday morning. Suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of both Valentine’s Day and the full Moon.
As the midwinter Moon, the second full Moon of winter, the Native American tribes of what is now the northern and eastern United States called this the Snow Moon or the Hunger Moon. It was known as the Snow Moon because of the heavy snows that fall in this season. Bad weather and heavy snows made hunting difficult, so this Moon was also called the Hunger Moon.
In the Hebrew calendar the months change with the new Moon and the full Moons fall in the middle of the month. This full Moon is the middle of the first Adar (Adar Aleph or Adar Rishon). A solar year is about 11 days longer than twelve lunar months, so to keep holidays tied to their seasons, the Hebrew calendar occasionally repeats the final month of the year, Adar. You may recall that Hanukkah was earlier than usual last year, overlapping with Thanksgiving. Repeating the month of Adar means that Hanukkah will be later in the solar year in 2014 and beyond. The next time Hanukkah will overlap with part of Thanksgiving will be on November 27, 2070.
The 14th day of Adar (when there is only one Adar) is the Jewish holiday Purim. In leap years when there are two months of Adar, the 14th day of the first Adar is called Little Purim or Purim Katan, and the 14th day of the second Adar is the main Purim holiday. Purim Katan is from sunset on Thursday, February 13, to sunset on Friday, February 14, 2014.
In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon, a few days after the New Moon. The full Moon on February 14th is in the middle of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-Thaany or Rabi’ al-Akhir. Unlike the Hebrew calendar, the Islamic calendar has no leap days or leap months to stay in sync with the seasons, and Islamic holidays occur approximately 11 days earlier each solar year.
As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next…
This is the time of year when (for the northern hemisphere, at least) the evening sky is full of bright stars. Our Sun is on the inner edge of one of the spiral arms of our galaxy, and as we look up in the evenings we are looking away from the center of the galaxy but towards the densely packed stars of this spiral arm. After sunset this band of bright stars sweeps across our sky from the southeast to the northwest. The brightest stars visible in our mid-February night sky are:
- Sirius (the brightest star, 8.6 light years from Earth)
- Capella (6th brightest, 42 light years from Earth
- Rigel (7th brightest, 860 light years from Earth)
- Procyon (8th brightest, 11 light years from Earth)
- Betelgeuse (9th brightest, 640 light years from Earth)
- Aldebaran (14th brightest, 65 light years from Earth)
- Pollux (18th brightest, 34 light years from Earth
- Deneb (20th brightest, 1,550 light years from Earth)
- Regulus (22nd brightest, 77 light years from Earth)
- Adara (23rd brightest, 430 light years from Earth)
- Castor (24th brightest on some lists, 52 light years from Earth – what we see as a single star is actually four stars orbiting each other, complicating brightness calculations)
- Bellatrix (27th brightest, 240 light years from Earth)
- El Nath (28th brightest, 130 light years from Earth)
The bright planet Jupiter also is appearing in the evening sky. Jupiter was at its brightest and closest to the Earth for this cycle back on January 5, 2014. Jupiter is gradually shifting more into the evening sky and decreasing in brightness as the Earth rushes away from it on our way to pass around the far side of the Sun.
In the morning sky, Venus, Saturn, and Mars shine. Mars and Saturn are both gradually getting brighter. Mars will be at its brightest for the year on April 8, 2014, and Saturn will be at tis brightest on May 10, 2014. By the end of February Mercury will begin to be visible just above the east-southeast horizon.
Even though they are too small for us to see without a telescope, I normally mention Near Earth Objects that we know about that will pass near the Earth (within about 15 lunar distances). For this Moon note we have a greater number than usual to report.
Yesterday, Monday afternoon (EST), February 10, 2014, Near Earth Object (2006 DP14), between 460 meters and 1.0 kilometer (0.3 to 0.6 miles) in diameter, passed the Earth at about 6.2 lunar distances, traveling at 27.13 kilometers per second (~61 thousand miles per hour).
This morning, Tuesday, February 11, 2014, at 2:11 am EST (7:11 UTC), Near Earth Object (2013 BS45), between 18 meters and 39 meters (59 to 128 feet) in diameter, passed the Earth at about 12.3 lunar distances, traveling at 3.76 kilometers per second (8.4 thousand miles per hour), and at 9:49 am EST (14:49 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 BT43), between 19 meters and 42 meters (62 to 138 feet) in diameter, passed the Earth at about 9.8 lunar distances, traveling at 11.27 kilometers per second (25.2 thousand miles per hour).
On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, at 10:52 am EST (15:52 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 CB3), between 16 meters and 36 meters (52 to 118 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 8.8 lunar distances, traveling at 7.55 kilometers per second (16.9 thousand miles per hour).
As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, 2014. The bright star that will appear near the full Moon will be Regulus. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise at 5:17 pm, with Regulus rising about 10 minutes later (but not visible because of daylight). By the time evening twilight ends at 6:15 pm, they will be visible low in the east. They will reach their highest point in the sky right around midnight and will appear at their closest to each other around 1:30 am. Morning twilight will end around 5:33 am and the Moon will set at 6:30 am, all in EST.
On Saturday morning, February 15, 2014, Venus as the Morning Star will be at its brightest. Venus appears at its brightest when it is only a crescent but still close to the Earth. With a small telescope or good binoculars, you will be able to see the crescent Venus. When Venus is closest to us, it is between us and the Sun, so the side we see is not illuminated. When Venus is more fully illuminated, it is on the far side of the Sun from us, much further away, which makes it appear fainter. Venus will gradually appear less bright, but rise earlier and be higher in the sky before sunrise, until it reaches its greatest elongation (or angular separation from the Sun) on March 1st, appearing half full when viewed with a telescope.
On Monday, February 17, 2014, at 7:15 pm EST (February 18 at 00:15 UTC), Near Earth Object (2000 EM26), between 120 meters and 270 meters (394 to 886 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 8.8 lunar distances, traveling at 12.37 kilometers per second (27.7 thousand miles per hour).
On Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, February 18 and 19, 2014, the waning gibbous Moon will appear near the bright star Spica and the planet Mars. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise at 9:09 pm, with Spica rising about 35 minutes later and Mars rising about 6 minutes after Spica. They will be at their highest in the sky at about 2:54 am, and Spica and Mars will appear to shift closer to the Moon throughout the night, until they are lost in morning twilight (which will begin around 5:28 am, all in EST).
Spica and Mars will be at their closest to the Moon while we cannot see them (from the Washington, DC area, at least, the other side of the world should have a good view), so that by the time the Moon rises at 10:09 pm EST on Wednesday evening, February 19, 2014, Spica and Mars appear on the other side of the Moon, and the Moon will appear to shift farther away from Spica and Mars as night progresses.
On Thursday, February 20, 2014, at 11:59 am EST (16:59 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 BR57), between 42 meters and 94 meters (138 to 308 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 4.4 lunar distances, traveling at 11.02 kilometers per second (24.7 thousand miles per hour).
On Friday morning, February 21, 2014, before morning twilight begins (at about 5:26 am EST for the Washington, DC area), the waning gibbous Moon and the planet Saturn will appear about 7 degrees from each other. Saturn and the Moon will appear at their closest when we cannot see them (in Madagascar, New Zealand, and parts of Australia, the Moon will pass in front of Saturn). By the time Saturn rises Friday evening (at about 11:50 pm EST) and the Moon follows, rising on Saturday, February 22, 2014, at 12:13 am EST, they will have passed each other and will appear to gradually drift apart. The Moon and Saturn will appear about 7 degrees apart again when they are at their highest in the sky at 5:25 am EST on Saturday, right around the time morning twilight begins.
On Saturday, February 22, 2014, at 12:15 pm EST, the waning Moon would appear half full as it reaches its last quarter (if we could see it; for the Washington, DC area the Moon sets at 10:35 am EST and does not rise again until Sunday, February 23, 2014, at 1:14 am EST).
On Sunday morning, February 23, 2014, the waning crescent moon will appear about 8 degrees from the bright star Antares. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise at about 1:14 am EST.
On Sunday, February 23, 2014, at 7:15 pm EST (February 24 at 00:15 UTC), Near Earth Object (2014 CR), between 75 meters and 170 meters (246 to 558 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 8.3 lunar distances, traveling at 12.03 kilometers per second (26.9 thousand miles per hour).
On Wednesday morning, February 26, 2014, just as morning twilight begins (around 5:19 am EST for the Washington, DC area), look for the thin, waning crescent Moon near the bright planet Venus. Look a little to the east of southeast, about 15 degrees above the horizon. Try looking with binoculars, so you can see the crescent Venus matching the crescent Moon. If you have a very clear view of the horizon, you might also be able to see Mercury barely rising above the horizon a little east of east-southeast. If you live on the other side of planet Earth from Washington, DC, (in parts of Africa, India, and Southeast Asia) you would actually be able to see the Moon pass in front of and block Venus from our view.
The next morning on Thursday, February 27, 2014, if you have a very clear view of the horizon, you might be able to see a very thin crescent Moon appearing near the planet Mercury (but this is likely to be difficult to see, both because they are very close to the horizon, and because of the glow of twilight).
Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 3:00 am EST, is the New Moon and the start of the second month of Adar (Adar Bet or Adar Sheni).
Also on Saturday, March 1, 2014, Venus as the Morning Star reaches its greatest elongation or angular separation from the Sun, appearing half full when viewed with a telescope or binoculars.
On Thursday, March 6, 2014, the waxing crescent Moon will appear about 8 degrees from the Pleiades star cluster. For the Washington, DC area, they will be visible from when evening twilight ends at around 6:36 pm EST until the Moon sets about 20 minutes before midnight.
On Friday, March 7, 2014, the waxing crescent Moon will appear quite near the bright star Aldebaran. For the Washington, DC area, they will appear about 3 degrees apart as evening twilight ends (at about 6:37 pm EST) and gradually drift farther apart until the Moon sets (at about 1/2 hour after midnight).
On Saturday, March 8, 2014, at 8:27 am EST, the waxing Moon would appear half full as it reaches its first quarter (if we could see it; for the Washington, DC area the Moon sets at 12:32 am EST and does not rise again until 10:45 am EST).
Sunday, March 9, 2014, don’t forget to “Spring Forward” for Daylight Savings Time! For the Washington, DC area, sunrise will be at 7:29 am EDT, making this a later sunrise (and darker morning) than in late December and early January. Only the sunrises in late October and early November, just before we “Fall Back” to standard time, will be later in the morning.
On Sunday, March 9, 2014, the bright planet Jupiter will appear about 8 degrees from the waxing, gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end about 7:39 pm EDT, the Moon will be at its highest in the sky for the evening about 12 minutes later (7:51 pm EDT), and they will appear to drift closer to each other until the Moon sets at 3:07 am EDT the next morning (and Jupiter sets about 1/2 hour later). By the time evening twilight ends the next evening (about 7:40 pm EDT on Monday, March 10, 2014), the Moon and Jupiter will appear more than 8 degrees apart, and will continue to appear to separate.
On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at 6:24 am EDT (09:24 UTC), Near Earth Object 275677 (2000 RS11), between 400 meters and 900 meters (0.25 to 0.56 miles) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 13.7 lunar distances, traveling at 11.39 kilometers per second (25.5 thousand miles per hour).
On Thursday evening, March 13, 2014, the waxing, gibbous, nearly full Moon will appear near the bright star Regulus. For the Washington, DC area, as evening twilight ends at about 7:43 pm EDT, the Moon and Regulus will appear about 9 degrees apart. The Moon will be at its highest in the sky at 10:53 pm EDT, and the Moon and Regulus will appear to drift closer to each other until the Moon sets at about 5:30 am the next morning (and Regulus sets about 1/2 hour later). By the time evening twilight ends the next evening (Friday evening, March 14, 2014, at 7:44 pm EDT for the Washington, DC area), the Moon and Regulus will appear about 8 degrees apart and will continue to separate as the night progresses.
On Friday, March 14, 2014, Mercury reaches its greatest morning elongation. This opportunity to view Mercury is not a very good one for the Northern Hemisphere, but it is good from the Southern Hemisphere.
The full Moon after next will be on Sunday, March 16, 2014.