Monthly Sky Guide

February's Guide To The Sky

The Planets


Mercury, Venus and Mars are all huddled together in the morning sky, but sadly they are quite close to the rising Sun, so they will be tougher to spot this month. Venus will be the easiest to see rising just after 6:00am. You'll have an hour or so to spot the bright planet.

On the other side of our star, we have Saturn setting at around 7:00pm giving you couple of hours to spot the ringed planet before it sets. Jupiter is higher in our sky, so probably the best planet to try and view at the moment - although the Earth is pretty much the other side of the Sun in its orbit - so it won't be as bright until later in the year.

Uranus is not far above just to Jupiter's left, although a telescope will be needed to see it.Neptune will be in between both planets, slightly closer to Saturn, setting a little after the ringed planet.

It seems February is not a great time for planet hunting. So we will have to concentrate on some of the other cool sights to occupy us this month.

Now on to the month ahead...


7th
February 2024

A thin 10% moon sits near to the bright Venus in the dawn sky. The Moon will rise around 7:00am with them both appearing on the low horizon after 7:15am. Venus will appear as a very slight shadow on its right side if you use a telescope to view the planet. Try using a moon filter to dim it down and you may get a better look at its phase.

You may be able to just spot a few features on the thin crescent Moon as well. The crater Grimaldi looks more like a small mare and is a dark patch surrounded by a wall that has been battered into irregular hills. Just above it are also a couple of cool craters to peek at before the Sun rises.

You now have a few days of good stargazing without the Moon in the way - just in time to spot Comet 144/p Kushida - as it passes through Taurus the bull, heading towards the bulls eye. With it being at around 9th magnitude, a reasonably good telescope or some astrophotography will bring it out to view, but will dim to 10th magnitude by the end of the month.



7th - 8th
February 2024

On the 7th and 8th, a comet approaches the double stars Theta in taurus, (which is also known as 'chamukuy', meaning 'small bird' in the Mayan language) and Hyadum 3, which are said to be a dubious double. They are the next stars from the bulls eye Aldebaran - heading towards his nose - and are a nice bright pair. You can see with binoculars with the comet being just above them on this date.



14th - 15th
February 2024

The Moon passes Jupiter moving from its right to its left side. It gets pretty close to Uranus on 15th. The dim planet will be to its left and with a bit of star hopping from the Moon you maybe able to spot it using a telescope.



16th
February 2024

Around 8:00pm, the Moon moves up and sits almost perfectly below the pleiades, which will look really awesome. Almost like the Moon has a halo of blue stars above it.



17th
February 2024

Early morning on the 17th (in fact precisely 12:40am) you may be able to spot the Lunar X and V on our Moon, an illusion of sunlight glinting off the tips of craters covered in shadow.



19th
February 2024

At 3:50pm, look at the daytime Moon and see if you can see the jewelled handle. Another example of sunlight glinting, this time off of the tips of a mountain range, the Jura mountains.



22nd
February 2024

Mars and Venus appear close in the morning sky, but you will need a low horizon to spot them. This will be a tough spot, but with binoculars or a telescope and a low horizon, it will be possible. Mars will sit just below the brighter Venus rising around 6:30am. Just please be very careful looking near the soon to rise Sun.



25th
February 2024

The Zeno steps on the Moon are visible around 8:00pm. Look for the crater Zeno at this time. It is at the 1-2 o'clock area of the Moon - at the very edge. With the shadow just creeping across its edge, you should see what looks like some giant steps on the Moon.



Other noteworthy objects


Theres a whole host of objects in the February sky for you to enjoy, most of which are best when the Moon is out of the way. However, bright stars, like Sirius the dog star, won't be affected by it much as it is really bright itself. If you wait until about 9:00pm, you will have a ton of bright different coloured stars to enjoy using your eyes to look at and admire. So look out for...


Sirius in Canis Major - the big dog.

Take a look at Betelgeuse in Orion as is about to go supernova. And look at Orion's host of bright stars including its famous belt of 3 stars. Look here with binoculars and you'll see there's actually a lot more.

Take a look at Capella the goat star in Auriga.

The twins, Pollox and Castor, the heads of the twins.

Procyon, one of two stars that make up Canis Minor, the little dog.

And we spoke about Taurus, with his bright eye Aldebaran and the Hyades and Pleiades clusters. One a V shaped cluster of red stars the other a bunch of blue.



And as a little challenge, see if you can find the Ruby star, the second reddest star in our sky located between one of Taurus' horns and Orions raised arm.



Finally, seeing as its the month for lovers. Although the original historical meaning of Valentines has changed in modern times. I am an old romantic, so should probably mention the heart nebula, which can be found between Perseus and Cassiopeia so that those astrophotographers out there can capture the Milkyways heart.

That's enough of that,

So although the planets aren't in a great place to view I hope I have given you plenty of other objects for you to find, look up and admire in our February skies.

Clear skies guys, and remember... there's a billion worlds in your back garden!

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