by Adam Welbourn
As much as dark skies are what stargazers crave, and the longer the darkness the more gazing that can be done, it’s nice that afternoons are now noticeably lighter for longer!
Apart from a week or so of cold snowy weather affecting most of the northern UK it has been one of the mildest winters on record, so with the luck of some drier weather (let’s face it, we’re due) February could be a great time to get outside under the stars.
To help we’ve picked out some heavenly happenings for the upcoming month below, so peruse at your leisure and get out and enjoy the night!
Keep watching those skies…
Monday 1st February – This morning our Moon will be seen at Last Quarter phase
If you have some binoculars you may be able to catch Comet Catalina close to Polaris the Pole Star over the first few evenings of February. It will drift away (towards the west) and decrease in magnitude as the month passes, so catch it while you can!
Saturday 6th February – Early risers with a flat enough horizon (and the luck of clear skies of course!) will be in for a treat just before dawn this morning. The sliver of crescent Moon sits over a bright Venus, with a faint Mercury just below and to the left
Sunday 7th February – Mercury is at greatest western elongation today, and may be visible just before sunrise to the left of much brighter Venus, appearing to be a faint star in comparison
Monday 8th February – Today the New Moon rises and sets with the Sun, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae, or get a clearer look at objects usually blurred and faint in light polluted skies
A nice object to try and locate at this time of year is the Rosette Nebula, which contains open cluster NGC 2244. If your skies aren’t too light polluted you should be able to locate it to the left of Orion, look to the south at 21:00 UTC
Thursday 11th Febuary – Today the Moon is at Perigee at a distance of 364,510 km (226,496 miles) from the Earth, the closest it will come on it’s current orbit
Monday 15th February – This morning the Moon will be seen at First Quarter phase
And to help you identify the constellations you can see throughout the month, below we’ve provided guide images for both southern and northern skies in February
Monday 22nd February – This evening’s Full Moon is sometimes known as the Budding Moon, Storm Moon or Snow Moon
Tuesday 23rd February – Gas giant Jupiter joins our Moon in the sky tonight, can you catch it in an image despite the brightness of its companion? They will travel together for the whole evening, appearing closest in the early hours of the 24th
Sunday 27th February – The Moon is at Apogee today at a distance of 405,380 km (251,376 miles), the furthest point its orbit will take it away from the Earth this month
Monday 28th February – Often elusive Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun today, and is actually unobservable throughout the month
As usual, if you take any photos throughout February you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts and we’ll re-tweet them to your fellow sky-watchers!
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! :)
Guide images created with Stellarium