February’s ‘supermoon’ makes the night sky pretty dark tonight

The new moon occurs on February 9, at 17:59 pm EST (2259 GMT), in New York, according to the US Naval Observatoryon the same day Mars, Venus and Mercury form a planetary line during the previous hours.

When the moon is directly between the sun and the Earth, we have a new moon. Both bodies share the same celestial longitude, a projection of Earth’s own lines of longitude onto the celestial sphere, also known as conjunction. New moons are invisible unless the moon passes directly in front of the sun, producing a solar eclipse (the next one is on April 8). Moon phases depend on the position of the moon relative to the Earth, so the time is the same with the differences resulting from time zones.

February’s new moon occurs just one hour before the moon reaches perigee, the closest it reaches Earth during its orbit. During a full moon, this makes the moon appear slightly larger than at other times, giving rise to the common term “supermoon”. Although the moon will technically be more visible during the new moon due to its proximity to Earth, it will be invisible as it is lost in the sun’s color.

Related: Full moon calendar 2024: When to see the next full moon


Celestron telescope on a white background

Celestron telescope on a white background

Looking for a telescope to see awesome things during a new moon? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 as the top choice in our best beginners telescope guide.

In some cultures – especially Hebrew, Muslim and Chinese – the new moons are the lunar months. For example in Hebrew the new moon of February is the last day of the month of Shevat, and in the Islamic calendar it is the 28th day of Rajab; this is the day after many Muslims celebrate the night journey of the prophet Muhammad to Jerusalem.

In the Chinese calendar the 30th day of the last month is called Làyuè (腊月), or Preservation Month, because of the tradition of preserving food before the Spring Festival, which is the following day on February 10, the first day of Zhēngyuè (正月) or Beginning month, for the beginning of the year.

Visible Planets

Before the sun rises on February 9 it is possible to look south-east to see Venus; the planet rises in New York at 5:27 local time. Sunrise is not until 6:58 am. and civil twilight is at 6:29 am, (the time when the street lights start turning off in many places).

It is relatively easy to see Venus rising; Venus is the third brightest object in the sky so it should be easy to see, and can be used to find Mars, which (from mid-northern latitudes) will be to the left and below it. It will be much more difficult to see Mars because it rises at 5:53 am, when the sky is starting to get light. By sunrise Mars will only be about 9 degrees high.

Mercury rises last, at 6:28 am and is mostly lost in the sun because it is only 5 degrees higher at sunrise, below and to the left of Mars. A note of caution: looking at anything close to the sun requires care – it is important to be careful as pointing an optical aid (such as binoculars) at the sun can cause permanent eye damage. This is true even for the light part of the sky just before sunrise.

a large crater-riddled orb hangs partially in the black shadow of space.a large crater-riddled orb hangs partially in the black shadow of space.

a large crater-riddled orb hangs partially in the black shadow of space.

Moving south, the angle the three planets make with the horizon will be steeper. In Miami, Venus rises at 5:17 am local time and Mars continues at 5:43 am Mercury rises at 6:21 am Under sunrise, which is at 7:00 am all three planets are higher in the sky than New York City – Mercury is two full degrees higher, about 7 and a half degrees above the sky. It will still be very difficult to see, but it will be easier to find than at higher latitudes. If one has a smooth horizon and clear conditions one can see it just as it comes up. At sunrise Mars is 15 degrees above the horizon, and Venus is almost 20 degrees above the horizon.

Closer to the equator the three planets become higher; in Quito, Venus appears to be directly over Mars, which is directly over Mercury. Venus is 21 degrees above the horizon by 6 am; the planet rises at 4:20 am local time. Mars rises at 4:43 am and Mercury rises at 5:33 am, almost a full hour before sunrise at 6:25 am By sunrise on February 9, Venus is at 27 degrees and Mars at 21 degrees; Mercury reaches about 12 degrees, and Mars is 19 degrees above the horizon. Venus is This makes the innermost planet easier to find; if one has a flat horizon and clear conditions one can see it just as it comes up.

Moving into the Southern Hemisphere our planetary line begins to tilt back toward the horizon (albeit in the opposite direction from the Northern Hemisphere). From Santiago, Chile, Venus will appear above and to the left of Mars, which will be above and to the left of Mercury. Santiago is about 33 degrees south, as far below the equator as Charleston, South Carolina is above it. By sunrise at 7:13 am on February 9, Venus is at 27 degrees and Mars at 22 degrees; Mercury reaches about 13 degrees.

In mid-northern latitudes (as in New York) Jupiter is high in the western half of the sky on the evening of February 9, in the constellation Aries. By 6 pm it is almost 60 degrees above the horizon, easy to see as the sky darkens (in New York, sunset is at 5:23 pm) The planet sets that evening at 11:54 pm Saturn, meanwhile, is much closer to the horizon at sunset; only 13 degrees higher in the south-west; observers will have little chance of catching the planet before it disappears at 6:45 p.m

Jupiter continues with slanted gaseous streaks, with nearby moons labeled Europa and Ganymede.  Europa's shadow is seen and labeled on Jupiter's surface.Jupiter continues with slanted gaseous streaks, with nearby moons labeled Europa and Ganymede.  Europa's shadow is seen and labeled on Jupiter's surface.

Jupiter continues with slanted gaseous streaks, with nearby moons labeled Europa and Ganymede. Europa’s shadow is seen and labeled on Jupiter’s surface.

In Quito, Jupiter is also high in the sky February 9; a high of 67 degrees in the west at sunset (6:31 pm local time). The planet will be more visible a little later; by 7:30 pm it is still 55 degrees above the western sky, and the planet sets at 11:24 pm Saturn, meanwhile, sets at 7:38 pm, which means by the time the sky rises dark enough to see it against the sky – around 7 pm – the planet is only 8 degrees high.

From Santiago, Chile (cities such as Cape Town and Sydney, Australia, are also close to this latitude) where the sun sets late, at 8:40 pm (summer in the Southern Hemisphere) Jupiter is lower than in the Northern Hemisphere. , only 35 degrees north-west at sunset; it settles at 12:16 am on February 10. Saturn is only 10 degrees high at sunset; it settles at 9:34 pm local time. By the time the sky gets dark the planet is almost too close to the horizon to be easily seen.


By about 7 pm the Big Dipper will be rising in the northeast, with the “bowl” facing north (left), and the “handle” pointing toward the sky. The two stars at one end of the Dipper are Alpha and Beta Ursae Majoris, also known as Dubhe and Merak. Not only is Dubhe the brightest star in Ursa Major but the name “Dubhe” is an Arabic word for “bear.” Both stars point to Polaris, the North Star. Using those same “directions” it is possible to go in the other direction, and find Leo, the Lion, who will be rising above the eastern sky. The two stars point at the back of the Dipper’s bowl to the star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

Turning south in mid-north latitudes you will see Canis Major, Orion and Taurus. Orion’s famous belt is visible even from city locations, as is Sirius, the “Dog Star” in Canis Major. Approaching the peak from the north, one will see Auriga, the charioteer, and Perseus, the legendary Greek hero. By 9 pm Sirius is almost due south – the star moves, or crosses the meridian, around 9 pm and 10 pm local time (this depends on how close to the eastern or western edge of the time zone boundary it is one at).

As Sirius reaches its highest point a large six-sided constellation known as the Winter Hexagon can be seen. Capella (the northernmost and highest of the group), and moving clockwise, has six shapes, Aldebaran, Rigel, Sirius, Procyon, and Pollux. Procyon is a bright bright star that is Alpha Canis Minoris, the alpha star of the Little Dog, and is one of our closer constellation neighbors at 11.5 light-years away; in the Northern Hemisphere skies the only bright star closer than Sirius, which is 8.6 light years away.

As the night progresses observers can watch Virgo rising around midnight. The Great Dipper can help here; using the handle one can “arc to Arcturus” by drawing a sweeping arc to Arcturus, an orange-yellow star in Boötes, the Herdsman, and then continue to reach Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. The Dipper will be high in the northeast, with the bowl facing down and to the left.

In the Southern Hemisphere, it is completely dark by 9:30 pm, with the Southern Cross rising in the southeast. Polaris has no equal in the southern skies; Crux, the Southern Cross, can be used to point the direction of the Non-South Pole, but the constellations in that region such as Chamaeleon and Octans (the Octan) are made up of fainter stars (and none at the South Celestial Pole ).


— The night sky, February 2024: What you see tonight

– The brightest planets in the February night sky: How to see them (and when)

— What is the phase of the moon today? Moon phases 2024

To find the pole, a good method is to draw an imaginary line through the center of Crux (along the vertical part of the cross) and continue until you meet another bright star, called Achernar, which will be on the other side . side and about the same distance from the Pole as the Cross. The Independent South Pole is about halfway between them. Just below Crux is the constellation Centaurus the Centaur, which contains Alpha Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor; to the left of Alpha Centauri is Hadar, the second brightest star in the Centaur.

Looking up to the southeast — following the Milky Way, if one is in a dark sky position — one comes across the three constellations of Argo, the legendary ship that carried Jason and the Argonians: Puppis the deck, Vela the sail, and Carina the keel. Even if the Milky Way cannot be seen due to city lights, the “clustering” of relatively bright stars in the region is noticeable. Vela, the sail, is a rough circle of eight medium-bright stars. To the right of Vela is Carina, whose brightest star is Canopus, one of the brightest stars in the solar neighborhood. It is 310 light-years away and magnitude -0.76, making it 10,000 times as bright as the sun, according to observations from the European Southern Observatory.

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