Here’s the February 2021 Guide to the Bright Planets from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. In February, many of the big planets have faded but the clear, cold nights are bright with stars! Here are Bob Berman’s highlights of the night sky.
Sky Watch February 2021
by Bob Berman, as featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac
- Jupiter and Saturn, after passing behind the Sun during January’s last week, have deserted the evening sky, leaving low Mercury alone to finish up its own challenging apparition.
- On February 11, Venus and Jupiter will meet about 30 minutes before sunrise. Look to the southeast horizon. This conjunction may be difficult to see in the morning twilight. Venus will be the brighter planet (about 6 times brighter than Jupiter now). You may need binoculars or a telescope to see both planets, which will be closely paired within the same binocular frame.
- Mars appears in the evening sky, much higher, on the Aries/Taurus boundary. Although fading, the Red Planet is still conspicuous at magnitude 0.76. Watch it hover dramatically just above the half Moon on the 18th.
- Low in the predawn eastern sky at month’s end, the Jupiter–Saturn–Mercury threesome has been copied and pasted from their January evening-sky venue, but the grouping is just 7 degrees high in the brightening twilight, requiring an unobstructed, oceanlike horizon. The asteroid Vesta, in the tail of Leo, can be easily seen with binoculars at magnitude 6.3.
See the Almanac’s Bright Planets Calculator to find out when planets rise and set. Just type in your zip code.
February Moon Phases
February’s full Moon reaches peak fullness at 3:19 A.M. EST on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Look skyward on Friday night to catch the best view of this full Moon!
Last Quarter: Feb. 4, 12:37 P.M. EST
New Moon: Feb. 11, 2:06 P.M. EST
First Quarter: Feb. 19, 1:47 P.M.
EST Full Moon: Feb. 27, 3:17 A.M. EST
Here at the Almanac, we’ve long called February’s Moon the ”Snow Moon” due to the typically heavy snowfall that occurs in February. Other Native American names for this Moon are: Make Branches Fall Into Pieces Moon, Raccoon Moon, and Hunger Moon.
There is no brighter constellation in the night sky than Orion, the Hunter of Greek mythology. And there is no better time to view Orion than an early evening in February,. Look first for that bright belt of three stars. The hunter’s shoulder is marked by the red supergiant Betelgeuse, seen above as a massive glowing white spot. Betelgeuse is roughly 1,000 times the size of our sun. Marking Orion’s foot is another bright, hot supergiant: blue-white Rigel. See our February Sky Map featuring the constelllation Orion.
Follow the belt of Orion down and left to find blue-white Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius lies in the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog and companion to Orion. See my tips on finding Sirius, the brighest star of the February sky.
Above and left of Sirius is another bright star, a yellowish giant named Procyon. Procyon is part of the constellation Canis Minor, the smaller dog and Orion’s second companion. Procyon, Sirius, and Betelgeuse form a geometrical pattern called the Winter Triangle.
This is also a good time to view the Big Dipper which will climb upward during the evening hours to reach its high point for the night around midnight. Use the Big Dipper to find Polaris, the North Star. Look for the two outermost stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper; they are the “pointer” stars to the Big Dipper. See my tips on fiinding the Big Dipper and the North Star.