Northants Skies - February 2016
The Moon will be at Last Quarter on 1st February, New on 8th February, First Quarter on 15th February and Full on 22nd February.
Our nearest celestial neighbour offers a wealth of details which can be seen using a telescope or a pair of binoculars. Through a pair of binoculars for example you can identify some of the more prominent impact craters such as Copernicus, Tycho and the dark crater floor of Plato. Even with the unaided eye you will notice the various dark lunar 'seas'. A lunar map (such as the one available from Sky and Telescope) will help you to identify the major surface features.
The International Space Station can be seen at various times in the evening sky up until the 20th February. Various apps are available which can be used to alert you as to when the space station will be visible. The one I use is the heavens-above.com from where the following times have been taken. When looking for the space station, you will be looking for very bright star like object moving across the sky over a period of around three minutes or so. The times below are for when the space station first becomes visible in the west / south -west, it will move across the southern part of the sky before disappearing in the south-east.
5th February @ 18h 37m & 20h 13m. 6th February @ 17h 45m & 19h 21m. 7th February @ 18h 29m & 20h 05m. 8th February @ 17h 36m & 19h 12m. 9th February @ 18h 20m & 19h 56m. 10th February @ 19h 03m. 11th February @ 18h 11m & 19h 47m. 12th February @ 18h 55m. 13th February @ 18h 02m & 19h 38m. 14th February @ 18h 46m & 20h 23m. 15th February @ 17h 53m & 19h 30m. 16th February @ 18h 37m. 17th February @ 19h 20m. 18th February @ 18h 28m. 20th February @ 18h 20m (very low).
Jupiter having just passed through solar conjunction is not really well placed at present. It is just starting to re-appear very low above the north-eastern horizon for a very short time before sunrise. It is probably too low down for any serious telescopic observation at present, however for a challenge see if you can spot it and the very slim crescent Moon on the morning of Saturday 12th September - look from around 05h 50m BST.
Saturn is visible as a pre-dawn object, very low down above the south-eastern horizon. At the start of February it rises just after 4am, improving to 2.30am by the end of the month, look for a bright creamy coloured 'star' with the unaided eye. Unfortunately, Saturn is very low down on the ecliptic for the next few years (it's currently in the constellation of Ophiuchus), so it never gets particularly high in UK skies. Nevertheless, if you have a telescope, be sure you still take time to observe it as the planets ring system is beautifully presented to us. With the unaided eye, there are some lovely opportunites to see Saturn near the Moon over the months ahead, including this month on the morning of 4th February.