by Maya del Mar
Jupiter and Saturn are still making their slow march across the night sky. Look high in the south a couple of hours after sunset to see brilliant Jupiter. West of it is yellow Saturn, near orange-ish Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull. If you watch the stars come out, Jupiter and Saturn will appear first. One by one the stars follow, and soon we can see most of the spectacular big hexagon in the sky, formed by six of the brightest stars. Jupiter is on the left edge of the hexagon (right edge below the equator), Saturn towards the center.
Aldeberan rises about an hour after the Pleiades, and this gives it its name. Aldeberan means "the hindmost" or "the follower." Aldeberan is on the ecliptic, which is the pathway of the planets, and is occulted occasionally by the moon.
The Moon eclipses both Saturn and Jupiter again this month, as it has done for most months during the last year. This is like a heavy bass drum pounding in the theme of social change month after month. This eclipse of Saturn, on February 20, is the last one visible from continental United States until 2014. The occultation begins to be visible in New York about 7:20 p.m. EST, and in Chicago about 6 p.m. CST. The entire process lasts about an hour. On the west coast its still daylight. However, the moon is still visible. Begin watching low in the southeast around 5 p.m. PST.
Saturn is now getting its charge for the Full Moon on February 27. That is a very, very Saturnian moon. Moon is also occulting Vesta now. Vesta is freshly into Gemini, joining Saturn, and she becomes an intrinsic part of this Saturn story. Vesta is about protecting home, hearth, and bank account. Safety is her purview.
Two days later, Feb. 22, the moon hides Jupiter in daylight for observers in Alaska, and in darkness for those in Europe.
Mars is rusty red in the early evening western sky. Moon will be very close to it on Feb. 16. This is another signal about that days high energy. See it in the sky!
The Feb. 27 Full Moon will be at its closest point to earth. Because of this position, it will appear 10% bigger in the sky. Tides tend to be extra high at this position, called perigee.
Finally, at months end, we may see Comet WM1 LINEAR. We need to get up at 6 a.m., and check low on the eastern horizon, a bit to the right of where the sun rises. We may need country-dark skies, and we may need binoculars. Comet brightness is hard to predict, but this is probably our best chance to see it. The tail should stretch off to the upper right.
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