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Sonoma County Gazette
Guide to the Night Sky

Guide to the Night Sky

Feb 5, 2018
by Tre Gibbs


By Tre Gibbs, L.A.A.S.

Back on December 21st, the Winter Solstice marked the shortest day (and longest night) of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. By now, you probably have noticed the days getting longer as the sun has been slowly heading north, eventually setting in the northwest on June 21st, which will mark the Summer Solstice – the longest day and shortest night of the year.

This also means that Spring is on its way, arriving next month on the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox, March 20th. On this day, the sun has moved north to the point where it rises directly east, sets directly west and as a result, both of Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemisphere experience equal amounts of day AND night.

A strange happening this monthFebruary has no Full Moon.February’s usual“Full Snow Moon” happened on January 31st. This full moon, usually in February, corresponds to the time of year when the most snow accumulates, making hunting and trapping difficult for hunters.

The next full moon will be on March 1st – “The Full Worm Moon”. This is the time of year that the ground begins to soften, allowing earthworm casts to reappear, thereby inviting the return of Robins.

Let’s move on to the planets! All of the action is still happening in the early morning/pre-dawn skies. Early in the month, Jupiter, The Roman King of the Gods, rises in the east-southeast around 12:30 am, followed nearly three hours later byMars, The Roman God of War, appearing low in the southeast after 3:00 am. Mars is then followed by The Roman God of Agriculture, Saturn about an hour later.

But let’s go back earlier in the month for a moment and see what the moon has in store… On the morning of the 7th, the moon, constantly heading eastward, travels the night sky just above mighty Jupiter. On the morning of the 8th, you’ll notice the waning crescent moon in the southeast around 4:00 am, appearing to have slipped between Jupiter and Mars, until the following night when the moon will be to the left of Mars. Then on the 10th, the lower point of the crescent moon points to faint Saturn, both visible around 6:00 am in the pre-dawn sky.

Venus has slipped behind the sun, becoming The Evening Star next month (in March) through October as she graces our western skies after sunset. This year though, The Goddess of Beauty and Love doesn’t climb quite as high in the sky as she did last year. She remains quite low to the horizon until mid-April, reaching her peak in early June, then beginning her long slow descent southwest until she’s below the horizon by mid-October. So until March,

Keep Looking Up!


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