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The Moon

The Moon In February

The shortest month of the year lands with dark skies in the evening and moonrise after midnight. Almost the entire first half of the month is ideal for fining deep sky objects, if you’re lucky enough to have some clear skies this February.

The moon-watchers amongst us will need to wait until mid-February onwards for useful evening viewing. Of course, if you have an alarm and you’re not afraid to use it, the first week of Feb presents early morning opportunities for tracking down some of the Lunar 100 as the crescent disc wanes from last quarter on the second to new on the ninth.

Our fainter DSOs disappear in the glare of the growing evening moon, which hits first quarter on the 16th and its full disc on the 24th. Although only a scant handful of nights exist in February after the full moon, it’s nevertheless true that the sky is moonless beyond ten pm for the last two nights of the month.

The best lunar librations in February are scattered throughout the month. You can see full details of all of these at the bottom of this page.

Viewing Summary

Dark EveningsDark MorningsDark NightEvening MoonMorning MoonLibrations
1-11, 296-154-1214-262, 19-294, 14, 19, 21
Evenings = 8pm to midnight, mornings = midnight to 4am, all night = 9pm to 3am (sunrise/set is ignored, moonset/rise hour is included)

Moon Phases, Rise & Set Times

Whether you are planning to observe the moon, or you want to make sure to avoid it, use the table below to discover when the moon will be above the horizon this month. The ‘Illumination’ column shows how bright it is going to be – the higher the %, the brighter the moon.

Moon Table Notes

  • A=Apogee (furthest approach), P=Perigee (closest approach), FQ=First Quarter, LQ=Last Quarter
  • All times are for Kansas City (DST). However, these times will be approximately accurate for your local time zone wherever you are in the northern hemisphere. For example, if you live in London, UK, the moonrise and set times will be no more than an hour different from those shown in the table above.
  • There are two moonrise columns in the table, this is because each day is timed from midnight to midnight. On some days in the month the moon is already in the sky at midnight, therefore it sets first before rising again later in the day. On other days, the moon is below the horizon at midnight. On those days it rises first before setting later in the day.
  • The data in the table comes from timeanddate.com

Visualization Of The Moon’s Impact

The following chart shows a visualisation of when the moon is above the horizon and below. This should make it easier for you to plan which nights offer the darkest skies and which provide the best opportunity for observing the moon itself.


First & Last Quarter Moon Locations

The two pictures below, from SkySafari 6, show the last and first quarter moons available to us in October.

We’ll see it reach last quarter on 2 February, when the moon will be passing through Virgo. Last quarter is always best viewed in the morning, when the moon is higher in the sky. The image below shows the moon’s location at 5:30 am when it will be 34° over the southern horizon.

First quarter, which is better for lunar gazers outside in the evening, happens on the 16th of February. The second star chart below reveals that the moon is in Taurus that night, very close to the Pleiades, and 74° above the southwest horizon at 7:00 pm.

Click on the pictures for full screen versions.

Last quarter moon, 5:30 am on February 2nd (click for full screen)
First quarter moon, 7:00 pm on February 16th (click for full screen)

Librations

The moon wobbles as it orbits Earth. These wobbles are known as librations and they show us parts of the Moon’s surface which are usually on the ‘dark side’. This means that we can actually see around 59% of the lunar surface over the course of a month. Keen moon watchers look for these librations so they can spy craters not normally visible to us.

The best librations for October occur on each night from the 26th to the 29th of the month. They all reveal more of the eastern side of our neighbor than we can normally see.

More information on how to read the images is provided at the bottom of this page.

Libration for 4 February 2024
Libration for 14 February 2024
Libration for 19 February 2024
Libration for 21 February 2024

Guide to libration images

Where the two blue lines cross shows the center of the lunar surface when there is no libration. The blue dot shows the center of the Moon’s surface, i.e. where the Earth would appear overhead if you were standing on the lunar surface. The yellow dot (cone) shows where the Sun is overhead.

Use the images above to see where each libration occurs this month and how large it is. Firstly, imagine a line running from the crossed blue lines and through the center of the blue dot. Extend this line on to the edge of the Moon’s surface. Where the line meets the edge is where the libration is most noticeable, this is shown as a red arrowhead in the diagram on the right.

Secondly, to see how large the libration is, note the distance between the crossed blue lines and and the blue dot. This is shown as the double-headed green arrow in the diagram. The larger this distance, the more of the ‘dark side’ of the Moon we can see.

The images above are generated on this NASA website.

Click for full-size version
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