The Season’s First Planting Moon
The gibbous moon waxes to full phase Monday, February 25. Early evening Thursday the 21st, the moon is between Castor and Pollux of Gemini to the north and yellow-hued Procyon in Canis Minor to the south. The Little Dog Procyon is the eighth-brightest star, with the brightest star Sirius, the Big Dog, trailing 20 degrees to the southwest.
Seen from night to night against the backdrop of stars, the moon shifts westward a dozen-plus degrees, toward bright Regulus, the heart of Leo the Lion. As the sun sets Sunday, the near-full moon rises in the west, and with the deepening darkness, Regulus pops into view just a few degrees north of the moon. Monday’s full moon is a little farther to the west of Leo, but they are still quite close.
In many Native American cultures, February’s full moon was the Snow Moon and the Hunger Moon, throwbacks to a day when February hosted more wintery weather. Whether a result of global warming or of Punxsutawney Phil not seeing his shadow, the Sap Moon and the Worm Moon, harbingers of spring, seem more apt. This full moon holds a place in farming lore, too. As the first full moon following Groundhog Day, the cross-quarter day midway between winter solstice and vernal equinox, it marks the beginning of the seed-sowing season.
You can still spot Mercury low in the west-southwest immediately following sunset. While surprisingly bright, the innermost planet will climb at best 10 degrees above the horizon, so you may need binoculars to pick it out from the glare of the sun. If you find Mercury, try your luck with Mars, less than half as bright and closer still to the horizon.
Brighter than any star, Jupiter dominates night sky, appearing high in the south at dusk and setting in the northwest around 1am. Orange Aldebaran it to its west, the Pleiades star cluster to its right. Saturn rises before midnight and is high in the south before dawn, with brilliant Spica to its right.