The night sky tonight and on any clear night offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects you can see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers.
Observing the night sky can be done with no special equipment, although a sky map can be very useful, and a good telescope or binoculars will enhance some experiences and bring some otherwise invisible objects into view. You can also use astronomy accessories to make your observing easier, and use our Satellite Tracker page powered by N2YO.com (opens in new tab) to find out when and how to see the International Space Station and other satellites. You can also capture the night sky by using any of the best cameras for astrophotography, along with a selection of the best lenses for astrophotography.
Read on to find out what's up in the night sky tonight (planets visible now, moon phases, observing highlights this month) plus other resources (skywatching terms, night sky observing tips and further reading).
Monthly skywatching information is provided to Space.com by Chris Vaughan of Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu (opens in new tab) and Chris at @Astrogeoguy (opens in new tab).
Editor's note: If you have an amazing skywatching photo and would like to share them with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to email@example.com.
Calendar of observing highlights
February 1: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) closest to Earth (all night)(opens in new tab)
The long-period comet designated C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is predicted to become bright enough to see by Northern Hemisphere skywatchers using binoculars and even their unaided eyes when it passes closest to Earth on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The closest approach of 26.5 million miles (42.7 million km), about 110 times farther than the moon, will occur around 18:00 GMT. That translates to mid-day in the Americas, so the best viewing time there for the comet will mid-evening on Wednesday when the comet will be highest in the northern sky, and about two fist diameters above (or 19.5 degrees to the celestial south-southwest of) Polaris.
The surrounding nights should be almost as good for viewing, although the moon will be waxing fuller each evening. After perigee, the comet will travel higher in the evening sky towards the bright star Capella until Feb. 5, and then pass close to Mars on Feb. 10 (red path with labeled dates:time). An app like Starry Night will show its nightly location where you live.
February 2: Moon crosses the Winter Heptagon (evening)(opens in new tab)
The Winter Football, also known as the Winter Hexagon and Winter Circle, is an asterism composed of the brightest stars in the constellations of Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Minor — specifically Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor & Pollux, and Procyon. The hexagon is visible during evenings from mid-November to spring every year. This year, though, the red planet Mars' position in Taurus between Aldebaran and Capella has turned it into the Winter Heptagon!
Viewed during the evening from mid-Northern latitudes, the huge pattern will stand upright in the southern sky — stretching from about 30 degrees above the horizon to overhead. The Milky Way passes vertically through the asterism, but you won't see its faint glow while the waxing gibbous moon journeys through the giant shape from Tuesday to Thursday this week (red path with dates:hour).
February 3: Bright moon aligns with Gemini's Twins (all night)(opens in new tab)
In the eastern sky on Friday evening, Feb. 3, the bright, nearly moon will shine several finger widths below (or 3 degrees to the celestial southeast) of the bright star Pollux in Gemini. The other, slightly fainter twin, the star Castor, will sparkle above them, forming a nearly straight line. As the trio crosses the sky during the night, the eastward orbital motion of the moon will carry it farther from Pollux, while the diurnal rotation of the sky rotates Gemini's stars to the moon's right.
February 4: Look for Blue Mare Tranquillitatis (all night)(opens in new tab)
The maria, Latin for "seas", are the large, dark regions visible on the moon's near side. They are basins excavated by major impactors early in the moon's geologic history and later infilled with dark basaltic rock that upwelled from the interior of the moon. Several maria link together to form a curving chain across the northern half of the moon's near-side. Mare Tranquillitatis, where humankind first walked upon the moon, is the large, round mare in the center of the chain. Sharp eyes might detect that this mare is darker and bluer than the others, due to enrichment in the mineral titanium.
February 5: Mini Full Snow Moon (at 1:28 p.m. EST)(opens in new tab)
The February full moon will occur on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 1:28 p.m. EST, 10:28 a.m. PST, or 18:28 GMT. The indigenous Anishnaabe (Ojibwe and Chippewa) people of the Great Lakes region call the February full moon Namebini-giizis "Sucker Fish Moon" or Mikwa-giizis, the "Bear Moon". For them, it signifies a time to discover how to see beyond reality and to communicate through energy rather than sound. The Algonquin call it Wapicuummilcum, the "Ice in River is Gone" moon. The Cree of North America call it Kisipisim, the "the Great Moon", a time when the animals remain hidden away and traps are empty. For Europeans, it is known as the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon.
Since it's opposite the sun on this day of the lunar month, the moon will be fully illuminated, and rise at sunset and set at sunrise. February full moons culminate very high in the night sky and cast shadows similar to the summer midday sun. Because this moon will be full only 33 hours after the moon's apogee, its greatest distance from Earth this month, it will look about 5% smaller than average (red circle) — making it the opposite of a supermoon and the smallest full moon of 2023.
February 6: Comet E3 ZTF close to Zeta Aurigae (evening)(opens in new tab)
Faint fuzzy objects like comets can be a challenge for skywatchers to find in the sky. Luckily, on Monday evening, Feb. 6 in the Americas, the path of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will carry it very close to a naked-eye, magnitude 3.65 star in Auriga named Zeta Aurigae, and also Hoedus I.
Owners of a backyard telescope can aim at that star and see the fuzzy greenish form of the comet in the same field of view (small green circle). The comet will pass only 10 arc-minutes below (celestial south of) the star around 9:15 p.m. EST, which converts to 01:15 GMT on Tuesday. Your telescope will flip and/or mirror image the view. Search first with binoculars (large green circle) or a low power eyepiece. Once you have spotted the comet, improve your view of it by hiding the nearby bright star just outside of the field of view and by trying out different magnifications.
February 7: Gaze upon the evening Zodiacal Light (after dusk)(opens in new tab)
If you live in a location where the sky is free of light pollution, you might be able to spot the Zodiacal Light during the two weeks that precede the new moon on Monday, Feb. 20. After the evening twilight has disappeared, you'll have about half an hour to check the western sky for a broad wedge of faint light extending upwards from the horizon and centered on the ecliptic and the planet Jupiter. That glow is the zodiacal light — sunlight scattered from countless small particles of material that populate the plane of our solar system. Don't confuse it with the brighter Milky Way, which extends upwards from the northwestern evening horizon at this time of year.
February 8: Dwarf planet Ceres changes direction (overnight)(opens in new tab)
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the dwarf planet Ceres will cease its northerly motion across the stars of northern Virgo and begin to veer westward in a retrograde loop (red path with dates:time) that will last until mid-May. In the late evening on Wednesday, the magnitude 7.6 object will be located low in the eastern sky, several finger-widths to the upper right (or 3.5 degrees to the celestial west) of the medium-bright star Vindemiatrix in Virgo. The bright, waning gibbous moon shining nearby from Wednesday to Friday will make finding Ceres harder, so consider waiting until the weekend for your search for this largest member of the main asteroid belt.
February 9: The stars of Orion's belt (evening)(opens in new tab)
Orion's three belt stars are bright enough to tolerate tonight's moonlight. They may look similar, but they are quite different, under closer inspection. The left-most (easterly) of the three, magnitude 1.85 Alnitak (Zeta Orionis) is bluer. In a telescope, Alnitak (Arabic for "the Girdle") is revealed to be a very tight magnitude 1.85 double star. At 1,976 light-years from our sun, the middle star, Alnilam (Epsilon Orionis) is more than twice as far away as the other two.
At the right-hand (western) end of the row, magnitude 2.4 Mintaka (Delta Orionis) is a more widely spaced double star. Using binoculars (green circle) look for a large, upright, S-shaped asterism of dim stars in the space between Alnilam and Mintaka. The medium-bright star sitting less than a finger's width below (or 0.8 degrees southwest of) Alnitak is Sigma Orionis, a beautiful little grouping of ten or more stars.
February 10: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) meets Mars (evening)(opens in new tab)
On Friday night, Feb. 10, the path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is predicted to carry it closely past the bright red planet Mars. The pair will be positioned nearly overhead in the southwestern sky, between the very bright stars Aldebaran in Taurus, the Bull and Capella in Auriga, the Charioteer.
Mars and the comet will be close enough to share the field of view in binoculars (green circle) and widefield telescopes. The comet will have faded from its predicted peak brightness, but it should still be visible in binoculars. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will be closest to Mars during the hours around 7 a.m. EST (or 11:00 GMT on Feb. 11), but it will have set by 3 a.m. local time in the Americas.
February 11: Appreciate the Pleiades (all night)(opens in new tab)
At about 8 p.m. local time on mid-February evenings, the Pleiades open star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, is positioned high in the southwestern sky. The rest of its home constellation Taurus, the Bull sits to the left of the cluster. Visually, the Pleiades is composed of medium-bright, hot blue stars named Asterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Alcyone. In Greek mythology, those characters were the daughters of Atlas, and half-sisters of the Hyades. They are indeed related — recently born of the same primordial gas cloud.
To the naked eye, only six of the sister stars are usually apparent; their parents Atlas and Pleione are huddled together at the east end of the grouping. Under magnification, hundreds of stars appear. Not surprisingly, many cultures, including Aztec, Maori, Sioux, Hindu, and more, have noted this object and developed stories around it. In Japan, it is called Subaru and forms the logo of the eponymous car maker. Due to its similar shape, the Pleiades are sometimes confused with the Little Dipper.
February 12: Pallas' path bends (evening)(opens in new tab)
On Sunday, Feb. 12, the large main belt asteroid designated (2) Pallas will complete an oval retrograde loop that it began in November, 2022 and resume its regular eastward prograde motion (red path with labeled dates).
Tonight, Pallas will be located in the lower part of the southern evening sky, a thumb's width above (or 1.6 degrees to the celestial north of) the pair of widely-spaced medium-bright stars named Xi1 and Xi2 Canis Majoris. They mark the lower of the dog's front paws. On each subsequent night, Pallas will race higher while arcing a little to the left (celestial northeastward).
February 13: Third Quarter Moon (at 12:01 p.m. EST)(opens in new tab)
When the moon reaches its third quarter phase at 12:01 p.m. EST, 9:01 a.m. PST, or 16:01 GMT on Monday, Feb. 13, it will rise at about midnight in your local time zone, and then linger into the southern sky during morning daylight. At third, or last, quarter the moon is illuminated on its western side, towards the pre-dawn sun. Third-quarter moons are positioned ahead of the Earth in our trip around the sun. About 3½ hours later, Earth will occupy that same location in space. The week of dark, moonless evening skies that follow this phase will be ideal for observing deep sky targets.
February 14: Half-moon shines near Antares (pre-dawn)(opens in new tab)
Low in the southern sky before dawn on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the waning third quarter moon will shine several finger-widths to the upper right (or less than 5 degrees to the celestial northwest of the bright, orange-tinted star Antares, the heart of the Scorpion — close enough to share the view in binoculars (green circle). Skywatchers in more westerly time zones will see the moon somewhat closer to the twinkling star.
February 14: Brilliant Venus passes blue Neptune (evening)(opens in new tab)
In the western evening sky on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the orbital motion of the brilliant planet Venus will carry it closely past the far fainter blue speck of Neptune. On Wednesday, Neptune will be positioned a half finger's width above (or 0.6 degrees to the celestial east-northeast of) the bright planet. On Wednesday, Neptune will instead be the same distance below (or west-southwest of) Venus. On both nights, they'll be cozy enough to share the view in a backyard telescope (small green circle).
Although Venus will be only 21 times nearer Earth than Neptune, it will outshine the remote planet by almost 12 magnitudes, or 54,000 times — making simultaneous telescope viewing of the pair impossible. Instead, hide Venus just out of sight beyond the edge of your field of view, bearing in mind that your telescope will invert and/or mirror the scene shown here.
February 17: The spectacular Orion Nebula (overnight)(opens in new tab)
The bright stars of mighty Orion, the Hunter, shine in the southern sky on mid-February evenings. The sword of Orion, which covers an area of 1.5 by 1 degrees (about the end of your thumb held up at arm's length), descends from Orion's three-starred belt. The patch of light in the middle of the sword is the spectacular and bright nebula known as the Orion Nebula or Messier 42 and NGC 1976.
While simple binoculars will reveal the fuzzy nature of this object, medium-to-large aperture telescopes (green circle) will show a complex pattern of veil-like gas and dark dust lanes and the Trapezium Cluster, a tight clump of young stars that formed inside the nebula. Adding an Oxygen-III or broadband nebula filter will reveal even more details. The nebula and the stars forming within it are approximately 1,350 light-years from the sun, in the Orion arm of our Milky Way galaxy.
February 18: A Sliver of Moon and Mercury (before sunrise)(opens in new tab)
Before sunrise on Saturday, Feb. 18, skywatchers will a clear sky and an unobstructed view towards the southeastern horizon can look low in the brightening sky for the sliver of the waning crescent moon. It will be positioned a generous palm's width to the right (or 7.5 degrees to the celestial southwest) of magnitude -0.23 Mercury's dot. The 5%-illuminated moon will be only two days away from new. Observers located at more southerly latitudes will see the pair much more easily — higher and in a darker sky — but the moon will be higher in the sky than Mercury. Be sure to turn all optics away from the eastern horizon before the sun rises.
February 20: New Moon (at 12:06 a.m. EST)(opens in new tab)
At 3:06 a.m. EST, 12:06 a.m. PST or 0706 GMT on Monday, Feb. 20, the moon will officially reach its new moon phase. At that time it will be located in Aquarius, approximately 5 degrees south of the sun. While new, the moon is traversing the space between Earth and the sun. Since sunlight is only shining on the far side of a new moon, and the moon is in the same region of the sky as the sun, our natural satellite becomes completely hidden from view for about a day — unless a solar eclipse occurs! This new moon will arrive only one day after the moon's closest approach to Earth this month, generating large tides worldwide.
February 21: Earthshine moon and Planets (after sunset)(opens in new tab)
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the slender crescent of the young moon will form a line below Venus and Jupiter — setting up a wonderful widefield photo opportunity in the western sky after sunset. The moon, which will be positioned a generous palm's width below Venus, may exhibit Earthshine. Sometimes called the Ashen Glow or the Old Moon in the New Moon's Arms, the phenomenon is visible within a day or two of new moon, when sunlight reflected off Earth and back toward the moon slightly brightens the unlit portion of the moon's Earth-facing hemisphere. While it won't be easily observable while that low in the sky, distant Neptune will be lurking several finger widths to the right (or 2.7 degrees to the celestial northwest) of the moon.
February 22: Crescent moon near Jupiter and Venus (early evening)(opens in new tab)
The moon will continue its trip past the bright planets in the western sky on Wednesday evening, Feb. 22. In the hours after sunset, its beautiful slender crescent will shine a thumb's width to the left (or 1.2 degrees to the celestial south) of Jupiter. Venus will be positioned a palm's width below them, making another terrific widefield photo opportunity. The moon and Jupiter will be cozy enough to share the view in a backyard telescope — allowing you to see a magnified view of our moon and Jupiter's moons at the same time. Take a photo of them through your eyepiece!
As a bonus, the magnitude 8.1 speck of the asteroid Vesta will be observable in a telescope. At around 6:00 p.m. EST (23:00 GMT), observers in parts of western Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and southern South America can see the moon occult Jupiter just before they set in evening.
February 24: Waxing moon approaches Uranus (evening)(opens in new tab)
In the western evening sky on Friday, Feb. 24, the blue-green, magnitude 5.8 speck of Uranus will be positioned a palm's width above (or 6 degrees to the celestial east of) the waxing crescent moon. With the moon sliding east by its own diameter every hour, observers in more westerly time zones will see the moon getting closer to the planet, allowing them to share the view in binoculars (green circle). Hours later, around 19:00 p.m. EST (00:00 GMT), observers located in the southern half of Greenland and parts of far northern Canada can see the moon occult Uranus, the last in a lengthy series of monthly occultations during 2022 and 2023.
February 25: Lunar libration reveals elusive oceans (evening)(opens in new tab)
Due to the moon's orbital inclination and ellipticity, it tilts up and down and sways left-to-right by up to 7 degrees while keeping the same hemisphere pointed towards Earth at all times. Over time, this lunar libration effect lets us see 59% of the moon's total surface without leaving the Earth. You can observe libration yourself by noting the way major features move toward and away from the limb of the moon, and up and down.
Mare Crisium is a 345-mile (556 km) diameter basin that is easy to see using your unaided eyes, binoculars and telescopes. It is located near the eastern edge of the moon, just north of the moon's equator (the up-down red curve). On Saturday, Feb. 25, libration will shift Mare Crisium farther from the moon's edge. On the same evening, look closely for two dark patches positioned between Mare Crisium and the moon's edge. Those maria, named Mare Smythii and Mare Marginis, are difficult to see unless the moon's eastern limb is rotated towards Earth.
February 27: First quarter moon (at 03:06 a.m. EST, 08:06 GMT)(opens in new tab)
When the moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 4:06 a.m. EST, 1:06 a.m. PST, or 08:06 GMT on Monday, Feb. 27, the relative positions of the Earth, sun, and moon will cause us to see our natural satellite half-illuminated - on its eastern side. While at first quarter, the moon always rises around noon and sets around midnight, allowing it to be seen in the afternoon daytime sky, too. The evenings surrounding first quarter are the best for viewing the lunar terrain when it is dramatically lit by low-angled sunlight.
February 27: Bright moon passes Mars (overnight)
Mars will be the final planet that the moon visits this month. After dusk on Monday evening, Feb. 27, the waxing gibbous moon will be shining brightly high in the southern sky. In easterly time zones Mars will be poised just two finger widths to the moon's left (or celestial east) — close enough to share the view in binoculars (green circle). As the hours pass, the moon's eastward orbital motion (green line) will carry it far closer to the red planet. Around 11 p.m. PST, (which converts to 1 a.m. EST and 0500 GMT on Monday) the moon will pass less than its own diameter to the north of Mars, allowing them to share the view in a telescope. Skywatchers located in Iceland north of Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands can see the moon occult Mars around 0500 GMT.
February 28: Venus prepares to pass Jupiter (early evening)(opens in new tab)
During late February, Venus will be swinging away from the sun while Jupiter and the stars are carried sunward by Earth's orbital motion. In the western sky during early evening on Tuesday, Feb. 28 the two planets will shine in a close conjunction with brighter Venus positioned less than a thumb's diameter below (or 1.3 degrees to the celestial west of) Jupiter, allowing them to share the view in a backyard telescope (green circle). The two planets will be binoculars-close from Saturday, Feb. 25 to Monday, March 6. After their minimum separation on Wednesday, March 1, Venus will shine higher than Jupiter — to its celestial northeast.
Mercury(opens in new tab)
As February begins, Mercury will be visible just above the southeastern horizon before sunrise. The optimal viewing period at mid-northern latitudes will start around 6 am in your local time zone. The speedy planet's descent towards the sun each morning will make it increasingly harder to see, especially after mid-month.
Skywatchers located in the tropics and farther south will have their best views of Mercury for the year, including seeing the planet pass telescope-close to the globular star cluster Messier 75 on Feb. 10-11 and then shining as a magnitude -0.5 object several finger widths above (or 3.5 degrees to the celestial southwest of) fainter Saturn at the very end of the month.
Viewed in a telescope during February, Mercury will display a gibbous phase that waxes to 92%-illuminated on Feb. 28. Meanwhile, the planet's apparent disk diameter will shrink from 6.5 to 5 arc seconds. Don't aim optical aids towards Mercury unless the sun is still completely below the horizon. The slim crescent of the old moon will shine a palm's width to Mercury's right (or celestial southwest) on Feb. 18.
Venus(opens in new tab)
Venus will catch the eye in the western early evening sky throughout February. The brilliant magnitude -3.9 planet will climb higher as it increases its angle east of the sun from 24.5 degrees to 30.5 degrees, allowing it to shine in a dark sky well beyond sunset at month's end.
Under magnification during February, Venus will exhibit a waning, 90%-illuminated disk that grows in size from 11.1 to 12.2 arc seconds over four weeks. Venus will begin February positioned just 11 degrees northeast of much fainter Saturn in Aquarius.
The cloud-shrouded planet's rapid easterly motion will carry it less than one arc-minute to the south of Neptune on Feb. 15 — but only observers in southeast Asia can see them that close together. In the Americas, Venus will jump over Neptune, allowing you to use the bright planet to find Neptune in binoculars on two nights.
On Feb. 14, Neptune's tiny blue speck will sit 0.6 degrees above Venus (or celestial ENE). On the following night, Neptune will appear the same distance below Venus. In a telescope, Neptune will be extremely difficult to see next to 54,000 times brighter Venus. Venus will spend the balance of February catching up to Jupiter in Pisces.
On Feb. 28 Jupiter will shine less than a thumb's width to Venus' upper left (or 1.3 degrees to the celestial east). The very young crescent moon will form a line below Venus and Jupiter on Feb. 21, making a lovely photo opportunity. On Feb. 22 the moon will jump to sit close to Jupiter — but observers in Eastern Asia will see the moon and Venus very close together.
Mars(opens in new tab)
Mars will spend February moving eastward through the stars of northern Taurus, making its bright reddish dot easy to see during the evening. It will already be high in the southeastern sky after dusk and then set during the wee hours.
Earth's increasing distance from Mars during February will cause the red planet to fade in brightness from magnitude -0.24 to 0.42, bringing it ever closer in appearance to the nearby stars Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. In a telescope, Mars will display a waning, nearly full disk that will shrink in apparent size from 11 to 8 arc seconds.
Although fading in brightness, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will pass within 1.5 degrees to the east of Mars on Feb. 10-11, allowing them to share the view in a backyard telescope. On the evenings around Feb. 23, Mars will shine a thumb's width to the upper right (or 1.5 degrees to the celestial north) of the open star cluster named NGC 1746.
One day after first quarter, the moon will shine just to the lower right (or celestial west) of Mars on February 27. Skywatchers located in Iceland north of Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands can see the moon occult Mars around 05:00 GMT.
Jupiter(opens in new tab)
Bright Jupiter will occupy the western sky in the early evening during February, but its daily descent sunward and the later sunsets will narrow the window for crisp telescope views of the giant planet.
Jupiter will be traveling slowly eastward along the crooked border between Pisces and Cetus, allowing much faster and brighter Venus to nearly overtake the magnitude -2.1 planet on Feb. 28, when they'll shine only 1.3 degrees apart.
The waxing crescent moon will provide a beautiful photo opportunity when it sits less than 1.2 degrees to Jupiter's left (celestial south) on Feb. 22. At around 23:00 GMT that day, observers in parts of western Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and southern South America can see the moon occult Jupiter just before they set in the evening.
In a backyard telescope during February Jupiter will exhibit dark equatorial bands across a disk that diminishes in size from 36 to 34.2 arc seconds. The Great Red Spot will appear every second or third night, and Jupiter's four large Galilean satellites will eclipse and occult one another. Moons will cast their round, black shadows on the planet on Feb. 6, 10, 13, 17, and 25.
Saturn(opens in new tab)
For the first few evenings of February, the magnitude 0.8 ringed planet Saturn might be visible with difficulty just above the western horizon below Venus. Observers at tropical latitudes will see it more easily.
Saturn will pass solar conjunction on Feb. 16, and then enter the eastern pre-dawn sky. Observers at southerly latitudes might glimpse the planet shining several degrees to the lower left of Mercury on Feb. 28. Always turn all optical aids away from the eastern horizon before the sun rises.
Uranus(opens in new tab)
The blue-green, magnitude 5.75 planet Uranus will be observable in the evening during February. Its 3.6 arc-seconds-wide disk will be most easily resolved in telescopes immediately after dusk, when it will be highest in the southwestern sky.
Uranus will be slowly traveling eastward through central Aries — along the line connecting Jupiter to Mars. On nights when the moon isn't nearby, Uranus can be found using binoculars. Search a generous fist's width to the lower left (or 12.5 degrees southeast of) Aries' brightest star Hamal, and a palm's width above (or 6 degrees to the celestial north of) the star Mu Ceti.
On Feb. 24, Uranus will be positioned only a palm's width above (or 6 degrees to the celestial east of) the waxing crescent moon. With the moon sliding east by its own diameter every hour, observers in more westerly time zones will see the moon getting closer to the planet, allowing the pair to share the view in binoculars. Hours later, around 12:00 GMT, observers located in the southern half of Greenland and parts of far northern Canada can see the moon occult Uranus, the last in a monthly series of occultations that began in early 2022.
Neptune(opens in new tab)
Neptune will spend the month of February creeping slowly eastward in northeastern Aquarius, toward that constellation's border with Pisces. The faint, blue planet will be in the lower part of the western sky — 12 degrees below Jupiter on Feb. 1 and 17 degrees below it on the 28th.
Until mid-February, Neptune will be higher than Venus, but Venus' rapid easterly motion will overtake Neptune — carrying it less than one arc-minute from Neptune on Feb. 15 for observers in Southeast Asia. In the Americas, Venus will jump over Neptune, allowing you to use the bright planet to find Neptune in binoculars on two nights.
On Feb. 14, Neptune's tiny blue speck will sit 0.6 degrees above Venus (or celestial ENE). On the following night, Neptune will appear the same distance below Venus. In a telescope, Neptune will be extremely difficult to see next to 54,000 times brighter Venus. After the Venus conjunction, Neptune will become increasingly difficult to find or observe as it drops lower and sunward.
Gibbous: Used to describe a planet or moon that is more than 50% illuminated.
Asterism: A noteworthy or striking pattern of stars within a larger constellation.
Degrees (measuring the sky): The sky is 360 degrees all the way around, which means roughly 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. It's easy to measure distances between objects: Your fist on an outstretched arm covers about 10 degrees of sky, while a finger covers about one degree.
Visual Magnitude: This is the astronomer's scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmest object visible in the night sky under perfectly dark conditions is about magnitude 6.5. Brighter stars are magnitude 2 or 1. The brightest objects get negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude minus 4.9. The full moon is minus 12.7 and the sun is minus 26.8.
Terminator: The boundary on the moon between sunlight and shadow.
Zenith: The point in the sky directly overhead.
Night sky observing tips
Adjust to the dark: If you wish to observe fainter objects, such as meteors, dim stars, nebulas, and galaxies, give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness. Avoid looking at your phone's bright screen by keeping it tucked away. If you must use it, set the brightness to minimum — or cover it with clingy red film.
Light Pollution: Even from a big city, one can see the moon, a handful of bright stars, and the brightest planets - if they are above the horizon. But to fully enjoy the heavens — especially a meteor shower, the fainter constellations, or to see the amazing swath across the sky that is the disk of our home galaxy, the Milky Way — rural areas are best for night sky viewing. If you're stuck in a city or suburban area, use a tree or dark building to block ambient light (or moonlight) and help reveal fainter sky objects. If you're in the suburbs, simply turning off outdoor lights can help.
Prepare for skywatching: If you plan to be outside for more than a few minutes, and it's not a warm summer evening, dress more warmly than you think is necessary. An hour of winter observing can chill you to the bone. For meteor showers, a blanket or lounge chair will prove to be much more comfortable than standing, or sitting in a chair and craning your neck to see overhead.
Daytime skywatching: On the days surrounding first quarter, the moon is visible in the afternoon daytime sky. At last quarter, the moon rises before sunrise and lingers into the morning daytime sky. When Venus is at a significant angle away from the sun it can often be spotted during the day as a brilliant point of light - but you'll need to consult an astronomy app to know when and where to look for it. When large sunspots develop on the sun, they can be seen without a telescope — as long as you use proper solar filters, such as eclipse glasses. Permanent eye damage can occur if you look at the sun for any length of time without protective eyewear.