Why Is The Moon So Bright Tonight

why is the moon so bright tonight
why is the moon so bright tonight

The night sky offers a captivating display of celestial objects, including stars, constellations, planets, the moon, and even special events like meteor showers. Observing the night sky can be done without any special equipment, but having a sky map or using a telescope or binoculars can enhance the experience. In February, there are several interesting events to observe, such as the Gibbous Moon passing Spica, the Third Quarter Moon, the Old Moon in the Scorpion’s claws, the Crescent Moon occulting Antares, and many more.

Calendar of observing highlights

Thursday, Feb. 1: Gibbous Moon passes Spica (wee hours to dawn)

Starting late on Wednesday night and continuing until dawn on Thursday, Feb. 1, the waning gibbous moon will shine close to Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. The pair will be visible in binoculars all night long, with Spica twinkling below the moon. Observers in the southwestern sky before sunrise will see Spica a little farther to the moon’s lower right.

Gibbous Moon passes Spica

Tuesday, Feb. 2: Third quarter moon (at 23:18 GMT)

The moon reaches its third quarter phase, appearing half-illuminated with its western hemisphere lit by the pre-dawn sun. It rises around midnight and lingers into the morning daylight in the southern sky. Third quarter moons are ideal for observing deep sky targets.

Third quarter moon

Sunday, Feb. 4: Old Moon in the Scorpion’s claws (pre-dawn)

The waning crescent moon rises in the southeast soon after 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, Feb. 4, crossing the upright line of three medium-bright white stars that make up the claws of Scorpius. The bright star Antares will twinkle to the lower left of the moon and the claws stars.

Old Moon in the Scorpion's claws

Monday, Feb. 5: Crescent Moon occults Antares (around 4:45 a.m. IST)

Observers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India can watch the moon occult Antares on Monday morning, Feb. 5. The moon’s bright, lower limb will cover Antares around 4:45 a.m. India Standard Time. Then the star will emerge from behind the dark upper limb of the moon about an hour later.

Crescent Moon occults Antares

Tuesday, Feb. 6: Moon with pre-dawn planets (predawn)

The pretty crescent moon will share the southeastern predawn sky with the bright planet Venus and the far fainter Mars. Skywatchers can spot the crescent moon shining about two fist diameters to the right of Venus, with the stars of Sagittarius sprinkled between them. Mars will rise shortly after 6 a.m., located a palm’s width to the lower left of Venus.

Moon with pre-dawn planets

Thursday, Feb. 8: Sliver of moon near Mercury and Mars (before sunrise)

Just before sunrise on Thursday, Feb. 8, the extremely thin crescent moon will form a triangle with Mars and Mercury above the southeastern horizon. Observers closer to the tropics may be able to spot Mercury to the lower left of Mars. The even thinner crescent moon will hop east on Wednesday morning, shining at Venus’ lower right, setting up a second photo opportunity.

Sliver of moon near Mercury and Mars

Friday, Feb. 9: Perigee New Moon (5:59 p.m. EST)

The moon will officially reach its new moon phase, located in Capricornus, approximately 4.6 degrees south of the sun. As it is a new moon, only the far side will be visible, unless a solar eclipse occurs. This new moon will arrive only 20 hours before the moon’s closest approach to Earth this month (or perigee).

Perigee New Moon

Saturday, Feb. 10: Young moon near Saturn (after sunset)

For about an hour after sunset on Saturday, Feb. 10, the very delicate crescent of the young moon will appear just a few finger widths below of Saturn’s yellowish dot. Their conjunction above the southwestern horizon will be tight enough for them to share the view in binoculars.

Young moon near Saturn

Wednesday, Feb. 14: Waxing moon dates Jupiter (evening)

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, the waxing crescent moon will go on a Valentine’s date with the bright planet Jupiter. The couple will rise in the late morning, cross the sky all day long, and then set in the west around midnight. Binoculars users can try to spot Jupiter’s small pale disk positioned less than a fist’s diameter to the moon’s lower left.

Waxing moon dates Jupiter

Thursday, Feb. 15: Half-moon passes Uranus (evening)

In the western sky after dusk on Thursday, Feb. 15, the blue-green, magnitude 5.8 speck of Uranus will be positioned only a few finger-widths to the lower left of the nearly half-illuminated moon, easily close enough for them to share the view in binoculars. Bright Jupiter will gleam below them.

Half-moon passes Uranus

Friday, Feb. 16: First Quarter Moon (at 10:01 a.m. EST)

The moon will complete the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 10:01 a.m. EST on Friday, Feb. 16. At first quarter, the 90-degree angle formed by the Earth, sun, and moon will cause us to see our natural satellite as a half-moon with its eastern hemisphere illuminated.

First Quarter Moon

Friday, Feb. 16: See the Lunar X and V

Several times a year, small clair-obscur effect features on the moon called the Lunar X and the Lunar V become visible in strong binoculars and backyard telescopes for a few hours near the moon’s first quarter phase. The Lunar X, a prominent X-shaped pattern, appears when the rims of the craters Purbach, la Caille, and Blanchinus are illuminated from a particular angle of sunlight. The Lunar V forms along the northern span of the terminator near the crater Ukert.

Lunar X and V

Friday, Feb. 16: Bright moon sweeps the Pleiades (evening)

Once the sky darkens after dusk on Friday, Feb. 16, the bright Pleiades star cluster will be located several lunar diameters to the right of the waxing gibbous moon. To better see the cluster’s stars, tuck the moon out of sight on the left side of your binoculars’ field of view. The larger Hyades star cluster that forms the triangular face of Taurus the bull will be located a fist’s diameter to the lower left of the moon, anchored by the bright orange foreground star Aldebaran.

Bright moon sweeps the Pleiades

Saturday, Feb. 17: Moon crosses the Winter Hexagon (evening)

The Winter Football, also known as the Winter Hexagon and Winter Circle, is an asterism composed of the brightest stars in the constellations of Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Minor. The hexagon is visible during evenings from mid-November to spring every year. During February, the Winter Football will stand upright in the southern sky — stretching from about 30 degrees above the horizon to overhead. The Milky Way passes vertically through the asterism, but you won’t see its faint glow while the waxing gibbous moon journeys through the giant shape from Saturday to Tuesday this week.

Moon crosses the Winter Hexagon

Sunday, Feb. 18: Crater Clavius (all night)

On Sunday evening, Feb. 18, the terminator on the gibbous moon will fall just to the west of the large and distinctive crater Clavius, which is located near the moon’s southern pole. Binoculars or a backyard telescope will reveal a curved chain of craters, each descending in diameter, inside Clavius. More magnification will show that its rim is degraded and polygonal in shape.

Crater Clavius

Monday, Feb. 19: Blue Mare Tranquillitatis (all night)

The maria, large dark regions visible on the moon’s near side, are basins excavated by major impactors early in the moon’s geologic history. Several maria link together to form a curving chain across the northern half of the moon’s near side. Mare Tranquillitatis, where humankind first walked upon the moon, is the large, round mare in the center of the chain. Sharp eyes might detect that it is darker and bluer than the others, due to enrichment in the mineral titanium.

Blue Mare Tranquillitatis

Tuesday, Feb. 20: Bright moon poses with Gemini’s Pollux (all night)

In the eastern sky starting after dusk on Tuesday evening, Feb. 20, the bright, nearly full moon will shine a thumb’s width to the lower right of the bright star Pollux in Gemini. As the trio crosses the sky during the night, the eastward orbital motion of the moon will carry it farther from Pollux, while the diurnal rotation of the sky will rotate Gemini’s stars to the moon’s right.

Bright moon poses with Gemini's Pollux

Thursday, Feb. 22: Venus Kisses Mars (before sunrise)

One of 2024’s closest planetary conjunctions will occur on the mornings surrounding Thursday, Feb. 22. The brilliant planet Venus’ return sunward will carry it very closely on the upper left of far fainter Mars. They’ll be close enough together to share the view in a backyard telescope from Monday to Saturday, with Venus approaching Mars from the upper right before Thursday, and then sliding to Mars’ lower left afterward, though your telescope may flip and/or mirror the image. Binoculars will capture the pair easily, too.

![Venus Kisses Mars](https://topqa.info/assets/images/

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