Naked Eye Astronomy – February/March 2024

by Steve Burr


We start the month off with the moon in its last quarter on Friday, 2nd of February. This is followed by a new Moon on the 9th of February. If you are looking to find deep sky objects with your binoculars or telescope, this is the time to do it. On Saturday the 24th of February, we have the Full Snow Moon. This name according to the Farmer’s Almanac, is attributed to the heavy snowfall which naturally occurs during this month. This full moon will be the smallest of the full moons due to the moon being located farthest from earth in its orbit.

Zodiacal light, a cone of diffused light will become visible in the West after evening twilight starting on the 26th of February and may be visible for the next two weeks.

Venus is still the most prominent celestial object in the morning sky. On the 7th of February, Venus can be located just 5° North of the waning crescent moon in the early morning twilight. Mars is just beginning to emerge in the Southeast during the early morning twilight. On February 22nd, Mars will be easily spotted in the Southeast lying below Venus just prior to sunrise. Jupiter is currently only visible in the night sky and remains easily recognizable to the unaided eye. Saturn is closing in on the Sun and thus only visible low in the Southwest immediately after sunset.

The Constellation Orion (Photo: Les Dempsey)

The constellation Orion is now prominent in the evening sky. Named after the Greek mythological hunter, this constellation is easily picked out (See photo). When looking at Orion’s sword, you can pick out a fuzzy light patch. This area of diffused light is called the Orion Nebula (M42). With binoculars or a telescope, this area captures the observer’s imagination.

M42 Orion Nebula (Photo: Luis Cho)


This month, we start off with a last quarter moon on Sunday the 3rd of March. This is followed by the new Moon on the 10th of March. On Friday the 15th of March, we find the waxing crescent moon less than a half of a degree from the Pleiades. Later on, Sunday the 17th, the moon is at the first quarter and the full moon arrives on the 25th. This is the Full Worm Moon whose name, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, comes from the writings of Captain Jonathan Carver who visited with the Naudowessie (Dakota) in the 1760’s. In his writings, it refers to a beetle larva that emerges from the thawing bark of trees in March. A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse will also occur on March 25th between the hours of 00:53 am and 5:32 am. This happens when the earth’s outer shadow (the penumbra) covers the lunar surface resulting in a slightly darkening of the moon.

Venus is dropping lower in the morning twilight and can be seen in the Southeast just prior to sunrise. As Venus disappears, Saturn is slowly emerging in the morning twilight. On the morning of the 22nd, Venus and Saturn are located less than a degree from each other in the Southeast sky just prior to sunrise. Mars remains in the morning twilight as it is now starting to move away from the sun.

The Spring or Vernal Equinox arrives on Wednesday the 20th of March. This is occurring when the sun crosses the celestial equator resulting in equal day and night. On Wednesday the 27th, Zodiacal light will once again be visible for approximately two weeks.


Total Eclipse – 8th April 2024

2017 Totality (Photo: Robert Mindenhall)

On Monday, April 8th Prince Edward County will have a front row seat to a rare celestial event, a total eclipse of the sun by the moon. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon obscures the sun completely casting a shadow on portions of the earths surface. The central path of this Eclipse is just south of the County providing residents with a great opportunity to experience this event. Weather permitting, observers will be able to view the Eclipse between 2:08 pm
to 4:33 pm. Totality begins at 3:21 pm and will last for a duration of 3 m 16s – Milford ( Never view the sun directly without proper eye protection such as eclipse glasses (ISO 12312-2) or if you are using a telescope, solar filters specifically designed for the telescope.

2017 Diamond Ring (Photo: Greg Lisk)

Take a look at this free event organized by RASC Belleville on March 2, 2024: (ISO certified eclipse glasses will be available for purchase)

This article was published in The South Shoreliner, February 2024 edition.