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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

A month with the Moon

Posted on January 26 2014 at 1:29:31 0 comments

Stages

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

If you were taking notice in January, you may have noticed that there were two New Moons. This means that there is no New Moon in February and there will be no Blue Moons this year.

It’s simple sums really, as the Moon takes just over twenty nine and a half days to complete its cycle (it took me two months to rebuild mine!)

So, we start February with a very thin crescent Moon and I thought it might be interesting to follow it across the sky.

On the 1st, it will be very low in the sunset but if you can find it, the little planet Mercury will be roughly halfway down to the horizon at about five thirty.

Then over the next few days the crescent of the Moon becomes thicker as it leaves Mercury behind and climbs higher in the sky.

On the 6th, it appears as a half circle, although astronomers refer to it as the first quarter – just to confuse the hard of thinking (well, it works on me!)

The Moon is also now very obvious in the afternoon daylight and after dark, and bright enough to be a nuisance, but if you look to the right of it, you might just be able to see the two brightest stars of Aries.

This is the day to look out for the International Space Station, as a Russian Progress vessel, launched the previous day, should be close to docking. You will have to check with heavens-above.com to find the exact times.

By the 7th the Moon has moved on to form a triangle with the Pleiades cluster and Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, and on the 10th it will be just below the planet Jupiter.

It is now that odd shape between the first quarter and full – known as gibbous – and as it is getting bigger it’s a “waxing gibbous” Moon, which sounds very Dickensian to me, Mr Sweedlepipe!

It then travels, day by day, out of Gemini, through Cancer and on the 14th it arrives in Leo, just to the right of Regulus.

It may be tricky to see this star, though, because just after ten to midnight it is full Moon. Not half, notice, but full.

At this stage the Moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise – which is easy for you to say, Mr Pumblechook.

From now on, it’s getting smaller so is “waning gibbous” as it moves on into Virgo.

On the 19th, it forms a triangle with Mars and Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, although it will be midnight before this will be high enough to see clearly. From now on, it may be better to look out for it at six in the morning.

On the 22nd, it is again half illuminated, the other half this time, and this is called…? Yes, you’ve guessed – third quarter!

At this point, it is close to the planet Saturn and is again visible in the daylight but this time during the morning.

This day also sees the launch of another supply ship to the ISS, this time an American Space X vessel. Time to consult heavens-above.com again.

The Moon is now “waxing crescent” and on the 26th will be very thin and very close to Venus.

This should be a very spectacular sight but tricky to see as it will be very low in the southeast, from about five in the morning till the Sun washes it out about an hour later.

That’s our month with the Moon then, see you next Lunar Cycle!


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