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Waxing moon passes through stellar pathway on February 12

Waxing moon passes through stellar pathway on February 12 Read more

Tonight for February 12, 2014

The bright waxing gibbous moon passes through a “stellar pathway” on the night of Wednesday, February 12. Each month, as the moon journeys through the constellations of the Zodiac, it always swings to the south of the Gemini stars Castor and Pollux, and to the north of the star Procyon, the brightest in the constellation of Canis Minor the Lesser Dog.

What is the Zodiac?

If the moon-drenched skies make it difficult to find the stars of the passageway, look first for the brightest star-like object in the evening sky. That’s actually the planet Jupiter. An imaginary line from Jupiter through the moon helps you to envision the direction of passageway. Look for the Gemini stars on one side of the passageway and the star Procyon on the other.

Sky chart of the constellation Gemini the Twins

The brilliant star Procyon is found directly south of the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux. The blue line passing through Gemini represents the ecliptic. Constellation image: International Astronomical Union

The brilliant star Procyon is found directly south of the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux. The blue line passing through Gemini represents the ecliptic. Constellation image: International Astronomical Union

The sky chart below shows the moon, Jupiter and bright stars for mid-to-late evening (roughly 10 p.m. local time) at northerly latitudes. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll see the moon, Jupiter and these stars in the northern sky around this time, except that Procyon reigns at top and the Gemini stars lodge at bottom.

2014-february-12-moon-jupiter-castor-pollux-procyon-text-night-sky-chart

No matter where you live, however, you can use Jupiter, the Gemini stars and Procyon to see the ecliptic – the pathway of the sun, moon and planets – with the mind’s-eye. The sun, moon and planets always pass south of the Gemini stars and north of Procyon. The sun, as a matter of fact, passes through the constellation Gemini the Twins every year from about May 13 to June 21.

What is the ecliptic?

Gemini? Here’s your constellation

But on the night of February 12, it’s the bright waxing gibbous moon that’s traveling in front of the Gemini, to the south of the constellation’s brightest stars, Castor and Pollux.