Photo courtesy of Michael Fagan
Sky watching this month won't deliver quite the show we experienced with January's total lunar eclipse, but several events are worth taking note of — assuming the weather cooperates.
Next up on the sky-watching calendar will be a newly discovered comet passing by Earth. Comet C/2018 Y1, also called Comet Iwamoto, will be easiest to observe the nights of February 11 and 12. This comet, just discovered in December by Japanese astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto, will pass by Earth at 28 million miles.
Comet Iwamoto is fast — hurtling through the solar system at 147,948 miles per hour, or an astounding 41 miles per second, Space.com reports. It will not be visible with the naked eye, but experienced sky watchers will be able to observe it with binoculars or small telescopes.
Viewing the comet as it passes Earth is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because it won't pass by again for almost 1,000 years, Mother Nature Network reports.
A week after the comet fly-by, February's full moon will rise at 9:53 a.m. February 19, but it will appear full in the night sky both the night before and of its rise, according to Space.com. This month's full moon is most commonly referred to as the snow moon in the United States because February is often our snowiest month.
February is also a good time for viewing zodiacal light, a phenomenon that creates a cone of light on the horizon at either dusk or dawn. At this time of the year, zodiacal light is best seen just after sunset along the western horizon.
The phenomenon appears as a hazy, cone-shaped light, according to EarthSky. Zodicacal light occurs when sunlight is reflected off dust grains around the sun in the inner solar system. Scientists believe this dust dates back 4.5 billion years and is leftover from the creation of our solar system.