Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Stargazing in February: The Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Adventure
Stargazing in February: The Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

By Kelly Kizer Whitt

If you had the good fortune to have clear skies in January, you may have noticed what looks like an especially bright star near the western horizon after sunset. In fact, it's not a star at all but the radiant planet Venus, shining brighter than all other stars and planets.


If you spotted Venus, then you probably saw Mars too, even if you didn't know it. Mars is just to the upper left of Venus, a reddish point of light that looks more intensely red if you view it through binoculars.

January ended with the moon in a close pairing with Venus and Mars. In February the moon will be a little higher every evening as it waxes toward full. The full moon occurs on Feb. 10, when a penumbral lunar eclipse will occur. A penumbral lunar eclipse is when the moon enters the outer fringes of Earth's shadow, a type of lunar eclipse that is less noticeable because the moon gets only slightly darker.

If you are in the eastern U.S., you will see the lunar eclipse in its entirety; if you're in the Midwest, you'll see the eclipse underway as the moon rises. Viewers along the west coast will see the moon rise right around the time of maximum eclipse. The final stages of the eclipse will be visible as the moon begins to brighten again.

If you follow the moon's path across the sky from night to night and month to month, you will see it trace out a specific route known as the ecliptic. This path is the plane of the solar system where you can also find the planets and, in the daytime, the sun.

But distant stars also lie along the path of the ecliptic and sometimes the moon draws particularly close to some of the bright stars as seen from our point of view, even passing directly in front of them. The brightest stars that are occasionally occulted by the moon are Aldebaran, Antares, Pollux, Regulus and Spica.

If you learn the stars near the ecliptic and the constellations they're in, you're well on your way to getting to know significant chunks of the night sky. On Feb. 5 the moon is near Aldebaran, a star cluster known as Hyades that makes up part of the V-shaped head of Taurus.

On Feb. 8, the bright star to the upper left of the moon is Pollux and the bright star next to Pollux is its twin, Castor. These two stars mark the heads of Gemini, the Twins.

On Feb. 10 and 11, the moon is close to Regulus, part of the constellation Leo and the bottom point in the backward question mark shape that makes up the lion's head. On Feb. 14 and 15, the moon passes not only bright Spica in the constellation Virgo, but Jupiter, which happens to be quite close to the star right now. Virgo and the moon won't rise above the horizon until late in the evening.

The last star that the moon occasionally occults, Antares, is currently a morning star. The moon comes near to Antares as it passes through the constellation Scorpius on Feb. 19. If you're up before the sun, you can spot the moon above Antares. The bright point of light off to their left is Saturn.

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.

LumiNola / E+ / Getty Images

By Gwen Ranniger

Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Seattle-based Community Loaves uses home bakers to help those facing food insecurity during the pandemic. Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia / Getty Images

By Lynn Freehill-Maye

The irony hit Katherine Kehrli, the associate dean of Seattle Culinary Academy, when one of the COVID-19 pandemic's successive waves of closures flattened restaurants: Many of her culinary students were themselves food insecure. She saw cooks, bakers, and chefs-in-training lose the often-multiple jobs that they needed simply to eat.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Storks in a nest near a construction crane. In the past 50 years, America's bird populations have fallen by a third. Maria Urban / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

What does a biodiversity crisis sound like? You may need to strain your ears to hear it.

Read More Show Less
The Biden administration is temporarily using Obama-era calculations of the "social cost" of three greenhouse gas pollutants while calculating a more accurate estimate. Bloomberg Creative / Getty Images

The Biden administration announced it will use Obama-era calculations of the "social cost" of three greenhouse gas pollutants while an interagency working group calculates a more complete estimate, the White House announced Friday.

Read More Show Less
Posts about climate change will now automatically be labelled with an information banner that directs people to accurate climate science data at Facebook's Climate Science Information Center. Facebook

By Anne-Sophie Brändlin

Facebook has started tackling dangerous climate change myths and anti-environment propaganda that circulates among the platform's almost 3 billion monthly users.

Read More Show Less