February 2018

Sky Report - February 2018

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Emeritus Faculty
Dr. Doyle taught and was Planetarium Director at Frostburg State University for over 40 years

Early February(Feb 1-7)

Local sunrise is about 7:20 a.m. with sunset about 5:37 p.m. Sunrise is slipping back about a minute a day while sunset is advancing forward about a minute each day. Daily sunlight is about 10.3 hours. On the evening of February 1, the nearly full moon appears below the bright star Regulus of Leo in the East. Each evening, the moon rises nearly an hour later so by February 5, the moon appears below the bright star Spica of Virgo at dawn. On February 7, the half full moon appears near the bright planet Jupiter in the southern dawn. Late in the evening, the brilliant star Sirius appear about a third of the way up in the South. Sirius in Greek means ‘scorching’. This brightest night star sparkles in all the colors of the rainbow. Sirius’ twinkling is quite noticeable due to its brilliance. This star is about two dozen times as powerful as our sun and lies at a distance of 8.6 light years. So this star’s light now arriving left Sirius in 2009.

Second Week of February

Local sunrises are about 7:13 a.m. with sunsets about 5:46 p.m. Each day, sunrise is about a minute earlier than the previous day while sunsets are about a minute later. So from day to day, the amount of sunlight grows by two minutes. The sun is now positioned in front of the star group Capricornus. When the evening stars begin to appear about 7 p.m., the star group Pisces appears low in the Southwest. As the morning stars begin to fade away about 6 am., the star group Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer appears low in the Southeast. Both the planets Venus and Saturn are now at too small angles to the sun to be seen. In the evening sky, the zodiac groups Taurus and Gemini are on display. The star group Orion has a belt that points rightward to Taurus. Taurus’ brightest star is Aldebaran, a bright orange star. Nearby Aldebaran is the 7 Sisters star cluster, which resembles a tiny dipper. Orion’s two brightest stars, white blue Rigel and pinkish Betelgeuse point upward to Gemini, the Twins. The heads of the two brothers are marked by two moderately bright stars, Pollux and Castor.

Third Week of February

Local sunrises are about 7:04 a.m. with sunsets about 5:54 p.m. In the evening sky, the Big Dipper appears to be standing on its handle in the Northeastern evening sky. The two top stars of the bowl point leftward to the North Star, a modest star about halfway up in the North. During the night, all the stars in the northern sky appear to revolve counterclockwise about the North Star. This apparent motion is due to our North polar axis very nearly pointing to the North Star. We are fortunate as over most of history, there has not been a North Star. The most recent North Star was the star Thuban in Draco the Dragon about 35 centuries ago. This was about the time when the Great Pyramid was completed. The reason for the change in the North Star is that the Earth’s axis wobbles with a period of nearly 26,000 years ago. This wobbling or precession is caused by the pull of the both the sun and moon on the Earth’s equatorial bulge. Besides the change in the pole star, Precession causes a slow change in what zodiac star groups appear in each season’s evening sky. So 13,000 years from now, the star group Orion will be a summer evening star group.

Last Week of February

Local sunrises are about 6:55 a.m. with sunsets about 6:02 p.m. On February 23, the moon appears half full in the evening sky (like a letter ‘D’). On February 26, the moon appears along a line made by the bright stars of Gemini, Pollux and Castor. On the last evening of February, the nearly full moon appear near the bright star Regulus, that marks Leo’s heart. February has the fewest days of any month. Long ago, the Roman lendar had only 10 months. March was the first month. Skipping over the milder months, September was the seventh month, October, the eighth month, November, the ninth month and December, the tenth month. The first part of the year were cold and miserable and unnamed. Eventually, two months were inserted at the start of the year – January (for Janus) and February (for purification rituals then done). The original scheme was to have the months alternate between 31 and 30 days, but that left the year several days too long. An extra day was added to both July and August. So it was decided to cut two days from February. In a way to compensate for the lost days, an extra day is added to February every 4th year.

The Frostburg State University Planetarium will have its Wednesday evening shows at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on February 14 and 28. The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center. These programs are free to the public. The Gira Center entrance close to the Planetarium is near the FSU Clock Tower. There is plenty of free parking.

Contact Us

Dr. Jason Speights

Director of the MLC
Assistant Professor of Physics

Email: jcspeights@frostburg.edu (preferred)
Phone: 301.687.4339
Office: Gira CCIT 189

Send Mail To

Department of Physics and Engineering
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303

Contact Us

Dr. Jason Speights

Director of the MLC
Assistant Professor of Physics

Email: jcspeights@frostburg.edu (preferred)
Phone: 301.687.4339
Office: Gira CCIT 189

Send Mail To

Department of Physics and Engineering
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303