February Night Sky


New Moon: 15th. February.

February is an unusual month as it contains a ‘black moon.’ The moon isn’t really black there is no Full moon at all this month, instead there are two full moons in January and March. This phenomenon happens once every twenty years, so enjoy!

Mars lies low in the south east this month moving from Scorpius into Ophiuchus at the start of the month. On the 9th it will be found below the crescent moon and on the 11th. the red planet will be near to the red star Antares. Mars will be slightly feinter than the star but should make for an interesting sight.

Jupiter rises after midnight and shines at a bright -2.0. it lies in the very feint constellation of Libra so will be quite noticeable. On the 7th. the crescent moon passes of the king of the planets.

Saturn rises before dawn but is very low down in Sagittarius. The moon passes to the north of the ringed world on the 11th.

For more of a challenge get your binoculars and see if you can find Uranus. The planet remains in Pisces setting by midnight by month’s end. The crescent moon passes very close by on the 20th.

On This Day:

65 Years Ago – February 21st. 1953: First powered flight of Bell X-1A.

55 Years Ago – February 14th. 1963: Syncom 1 was launched by Thor Delta, from Cape Canaveral. It was the first communications satellite placed in geosynchronous orbit. Unfortunately communications with the satellite was lost shortly after it achieved orbit.

50 Years Ago – February 19th. 1968: Goddard Space Flight Centre launched its 1,000th sounding rocket, an Aerobee 150 carrying X-ray detection instruments it was launched from White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).

45 Years Ago – February 6th. 1973: Marshall Space Flight Centre forms the Large Space Telescope Task Force to plan for and create a preliminary design of a Large Space Telescope (LST). It would be launched by the Space Shuttle in 1990 as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

February 15th.: Pioneer 10 crosses the asteroid belt without damage and becomes the world’s farthest travelling spacecraft of the time.

15 Years Ago – February 1st. 2003: After a 16-day mission, STS 107, the Space Shuttle Columbia began its re-entry but broke apart over western Texas at 9:00 a.m. EST when the shuttle was at an altitude of 60 km with a speed of 20,100 km/hr.

The crew did not survive. It was Columbia’s 28th mission. Following an extensive investigation, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board identified the primary reason for the accident: damage caused by foam insulation falling off the External Tank (ET) and striking the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing.

The agency successfully returned the Shuttle to flight on July 26, 2005 with the launch of STS-114, and retired the Shuttle in 2011 with no further accidents.

sts107 patch


Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 16:41  Leave a Comment