Every month, AY About You outlines the night sky in these easily digestible guides. And stargazing in February is another one for the books.
This month features local astrophotography from Arkansan Tony Milligan. You can find more of his spectacular photos on his website, Captured in Time.
Third Quarter: Feb. 4
New Moon: Feb. 11
First Quarter: Feb. 19
Full Moon: Feb. 27*
*The full moon of February is often referred to as the Snow Moon, simply for the wintry precipitation often found in the skies and on the ground this time of year.
No major meteor showers will grace our skies this month.
Planets and Special Events
Feb. 6: Close Approach of Venus and Saturn
In the earliest hours of the morning on Feb. 6, Venus will crawl to within 0.5 degrees of the distant Saturn. The pair will be close enough to fit within the view field of a pair of binoculars. Check out the pair throughout the month as they dance around each other, reaching another close approach on Feb. 23.
Feb. 11: Close Approach of Venus and Jupiter
Just a few days later, Venus will move to within 0.5 degrees of Jupiter, which is still not far from Saturn in the pre-dawn sky after the pair’s acclaimed conjunction at the end of 2020. Look to the southeast before sunrise.
Feb. 17: Close Approach of the Moon and Uranus
Uranus is not as easy to find in our night sky as its gaseous cousins Jupiter and Saturn but can be more easily identified when it’s close to an object like the moon (especially at a crescent phase, like this month). Look to the western sky at nightfall; Uranus will be about four degrees (a few finger widths) below and to the right of the moon. Dark skies and either binoculars or a telescope will be most helpful.
Feb. 18: Close Approach of the Moon and Mars
This close approach caps off what is a relatively busy month for the moon, as it will pass within four degrees of Mars on this night. The pair will fit within the view field of a pair of binoculars. Look to the southwest at nightfall.
Feb. 22: Asteroid 29 Amphitrite at Opposition
Asteroid 29 Amphitrite reaches peak visibility with its opposition this month. The asteroid is one of the largest S-types in the Solar System and this event will occur at around midnight. Look to the constellation Leo.
Feb. 28: Mercury at Highest Point in Morning Sky
Mercury will reach its highest altitude in our morning sky on Feb. 28 at 17 degrees above the horizon. Look to the west just before and after sunrise to see the closest rock to the Sun at this prime position.
In the News
The car-size Perseverance rover, the core of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, will land Feb. 18, kicking off a new era of Red Planet exploration.
On that fateful day, a rocket-powered sky crane will lower Perseverance to the floor of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which hosted a lake and a river delta billions of years ago. Over the course of its mission, Perseverance will scour Jezero for signs of ancient Mars life and collect and cache dozens of samples.
No public events this month. Stay home and stay well.
The best stargazing results are always going to be under the darkest of skies. So, if you can, find a place as far away from city lights as possible when stargazing in February.