(WVNS) — Stormtracker59 Meteorologist Bradley Wells is back with another look at the upcoming celestial events that will delight our region all month long. With the month of February upon us, those of us in the two Virginia’s will be treated to Orion standing tall, the Snow Moon, and remarkable planetary alignments! Remember to bookmark this page so you and your family can enjoy all the February night sky has to offer.
The following events are marked below for your convenience.
NAKED EYE EVENT: The event is visible without the aid of binoculars or telescopes in dark sky conditions.
TELESCOPE EVENT: The event is enhanced by the use or requires a hobby telescope or binoculars
LARGE TELESCOPE EVENT: A large (8-10 inch) professional telescope is required to view the event.
FEBRUARY (ALL MONTH LONG) : NAKED EYE EVENT – Calling all teachers and parents! The 28 day month of February is a perfect month to track the moon phases with your kids . February 1st kicks off with the new moon then cycles through all phases until the new moon again on March 2nd. Print the calendar below to shade in what phase the moon is in all month long! A pencil, crayon, or marker will work. Once complete, you’ll have a complete look at how the moon “grows” and “shrinks” throughout the month. (Teachers looking for a larger version to print for classroom, reach out via email to: email@example.com)
FEBRUARY (ALL MONTH LONG) – ORION THE HUNTER: NAKED EYE EVENT – This time of year, the constellation Orion is visible on the southern horizon. Orion is one of the brightest constellations making Orion’s early evening rise the best time to view it. With the naked eye, Orion’s famous belt to the Red SuperGiant Star Beetlejuice can be found.
Beetlejuice was the star that dimmed considerably causing fears/anticipation of the stars supernova explosion from December 2019 to January 2020. The star ejected large amounts of matter that obstructed its light reaching Earth. Either way, Beetlejuice is one Red Giant star to watch.
TELESCOPE EVENT – A three star cluster just below Orion’s belt holds a special treat for those with a telescope. The Orion Nebula can be found with Orion and the cold February nights make it great conditions to view and photograph. The larger your telescope the better your view with this amazing nebula.
FEBRUARY 7th – APOLLO LANDING SITES: TELESCOPE EVENT – If the skies are clear, take advantage and turn your attention towards the near half moon. On this night, the moon’s terminator will guide you to the sites of the Apollo 11 and 17 landing sites. Follow the terminator to the equator and the landing sites will be on the northeastern and southeastern side of that junction.
FEBRUARY 8th – MERCURY RISES: NAKED EYE EVENT – The closest planet to our sun, Mercury, is typically washed out by our sun. But on the morning of February 8th, just before sunrise, Mercury, will rise above the horizon before the sun. Making this a perfect time to view the rocky planet.
TELESCOPE EVENT: This will be one of the few times telescope users will be able to gaze upon Mercury without filters for an extended period of time before the sun rises.
FEBRUARY 9th – VENUS SHINES BRIGHT: NAKED EYE EVENT – Our sister planet Venus will be turning up the lumens the morning of February 9th. Look towards the southeast, along the horizon and Venus will greet you as the brightest shining object in the sky just before sunrise.
FEBRUARY 11th- PLANET PARTY: NAKED EYE EVENT – In the early morning southeast sky, the planets of Venus, Mars, and Mercury meet up before setting. These three will appear to move closer to each other this morning as they set. Venus shines brightest of the three and Mars will be unmistakable with its classic red glow. Mercury will appear as a dimmer looking star close to the horizon.
LARGE TELESCOPE EVENT: Those with a powerful telescope can use the three planets to find the dwarf planet, Pluto. Pluto will be located just southwest of Mars this morning.
FEBRUARY 16th – SNOW MOON NAKED EYE EVENT– February’s full moon is known as the “Snow Moon”. It was given this name as February is typically the snowiest month for the United States overall. For our region, January edges out February on snow total most years. Other names assigned by Native American tribes in the past were the “Bald Eagle Moon”, “Bear Moon”, “Raccoon Moon” and the “Groundhog Moon”. For those following along on the lunar tracker, the moon will start to get “smaller” as it transitions back to the New Moon.
FEBRUARY 18th – INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION- NAKED EYE EVENT– With the recent announcement from NASA of the retirement of the ISS, spotting it will become a thing of the past after 2030. It just so happens that on this night, we’ll get a great view of the ISS flying over our skies. Around 6:26, look towards the Southwest just above the horizon. It’ll be here a very bright, quick-moving star will appear. It will travel the sky upwards for about 7 minutes.
FEBRUARY 19th – WALLOPS ISLAND LAUNCH NAKED EYE EVENT– If conditions allow, NASA plans to launch a resupply mission to the International Space Station from Wallops Island in Virginia. The launch is scheduled for 12:39 PM EST. While daytime launches are typically visible from our region, you can watch the mission live here: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/events/viewing_launches.html
FEBRUARY 21st – MINOR METEOR SHOWER NAKED EYE EVENT– While February isn’t known for large meteor showers, those hopeful to catch a shooting star will have their best luck this night. The alpha Centaurid’s meteor shower peaks this night. This will be for the brave of heart as February nights can get down right chilly and this meteor shower only boasts about 5 meteors an hour. Look towards the southwest sky in the darkest sky possible for best viewing.
FEBRUARY 27th – PARTY CRASHER NAKED EYE EVENT– Venus and Mars have spent the month sharing the same part of the morning sky. On the morning of the 27th, our crescent moon joins the party sliding in-between the two planets. This set up is perfect for landscape photographers looking to add a little something extra to their sunrise photos.