This Tuesday, Feb. 3, watch the Full “Snow” Moon rise accompanied by the giant planet Jupiter.
Tuesday is Full Moon, the February “Snow Moon” according to some interpretations. Indeed, from most places in North America the Moon will rise over a snow-covered landscape to light the winter night.
This Full Moon is also special because it will pair with bright Jupiter. Both worlds are now at or near “opposition.”
Any Full Moon is always opposite the Sun – that’s why it is fully illuminated by the Sun.
But Jupiter is also near its annual opposition point in its orbit. The official date of opposition is Friday, Feb. 6. On that date Earth passes directly between the Sun and Jupiter – our three worlds lie in a line across the solar system. We are then closest to Jupiter and Jupiter appears opposite the Sun.
Being opposite the Sun, Jupiter rises as the Sun sets. And so will the Full Moon on Tuesday, accompanied by the giant planet now at its brightest for the year.
Look east at sunset. It will be a photogenic sight for the prepared photographer.
But you can also enjoy it with just the unaided eyes or binoculars, as the two worlds will appear about a binocular field apart, 5 degrees.
The double circles on the chart mark the position of the Earth’s shadow, which is always opposite the Sun. You can’t see our shadow out in space – not unless the Full Moon passes through it, which it will on April 4, for a total eclipse of the Moon. More about that in two months.
For now, enjoy the Snow Moon with the Giant Planet.
– Alan, January 31, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer / www.amazingsky.com