The nights of February will be very active astronomically speaking, and that is because the planets will be moving on the ecliptic and will stay visible at different times of the month, in addition to the fact that comet C/202 E3 (ZTF) will reach its perigee and would be seen with the naked eye.
Visible Planets During the Nights of February 2023
Venus heads the list of astronomical objects that will stay visible during the nights of February. The planet will get brighter as it rises higher in the west after sunset each night. But it will not be the only planet that will be seen this month, and that is because the gas giant Jupiter will be getting closer to it.
Keep an eye on the two celestial corpses during western twilight; they will grow brighter as the month progresses, and when they get their positions near the crescent Moon on the 21st and 22nd of February. It will not be until March that they will be able to reach the lunar conjunction, but in the meantime, they might be seen approaching the natural satellite.
Mars, for its part, will get higher each time in the sky and will not reach the west side until after midnight. You will be able to identify the Red Planet very easily, as it will be brighter than most stars due to its opposition, which happened on 8 December 2022; but, as the month progresses, it will begin to fade. The planet will cross next to the Moon again between February 27th and 28th.
Planets During the Sunrises of February 2023
On January 30th, the first planet of the Solar System reached its greatest western elongation, and since then, it has been positioned on the eastern horizon and gets observable just before dawn. The difficulty of observing Mercury will depend on its geographical position: in the southern hemisphere, it will be visible at dawn until the end of the month. However, if you live in the northern hemisphere, Mercury will get lost in the eye as the month progresses, and therefore, the best time to admire it before the Sun rises will be at the beginning of the month.
Saturn, the only planet of the first five that are partially visible to the naked eye (including Earth), will be the only one that will not appear during the nights of February. For now, it’s on its way to its conjunction with the Sun, an event that will occur on 16th February. The gas giant will get very close to the host star of the Solar System, and for that, it will not be able to be seen due to the brightness of the day.
Planet Observing Guide for February
For the contemplation of Venus and Jupiter, turn your eyes to the sky during nightfall. On the west side, you will be able to see the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces, and Venus will be positioned very close to Aquarius, while Jupiter will get its place near Pisces. As the night progresses, they will lose their way to the west, so you must locate them just after nightfall.
Mars will mark its way next to the Bull’s constellation, and in fact, it will be easily detectable thanks to Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus. Both celestial bodies will appear reddish in their colors, but Mars will show a greater luminosity.
Mercury will be the only planet that will force stargazers to get up early. It will get its own position on the eastern horizon, just before sunrise. It will be accompanied by the constellation of Sagittarius, so you will be able to place it more easily because of that.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera.