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In the February night sky, watch Venus and Jupiter draw towards each other all month until they meet. Bob Berman has your guide to what’s up in the night sky!
Visible Planets for February 2023
The brightest planet this month is still Venus. Look low in the west after sunset. Then look up above Venus to spot Jupiter, the second brightest planet in the night sky!
Here’s a fun activity: Over this month, watch Venus and Jupiter come towards each other a little nearer every evening until the last day of the month. (They’ll meet on March 1, and Jupiter will drop out of sight afterwards.) The two planets are very low in the southwest sky so you will need an unobstructed view. At the start of the month, Venus sets low in the west-southwest around 7:00 pm; Jupiter sets nearly due west at about 9:00 pm. By month’s end, Venus sets around 7:30 pm with Venus around 7:30 pm. Check the Almanac’s Bright Planets Calculator.
Red Mars still shines bright all through the darkness of night. Look east high in the sky above the Orion constellation and near the Pleiades star cluster.
As evening twilight fades on the 1st, Saturn may finally be too low, its long evening star apparition ending. Mercury may also be too hard to see in the morning twilight and the planet disappears from view by mid-month.
Here are some highlights by date:
On the 3rd, the Moon meets Pollux, the brighter of the legendary Gemini twins. Mars, dimming but still very bright at magnitude –0.2, remains above Taurus’s famous orange star, Aldebaran, and outshines it.
From the 12th to the 28th, watch brightening Venus draws closer to Jupiter an hour or so after sunset, low in the southwest sky. The two are the brightest “stars” in the sky; Venus is the lower and the brighter of the two planets. The planetary pair start the month about 30 degrees apart.
On the 21st, Venus appears only about five degrees above a super-thin, waxing crescent Moon.
On the 22nd, that crescent Moon appears just to the left of Jupiter.
On the 27th, the crescent Moon closely meets Mars, while Venus and Jupiter come together nearby.
On the 28th, the night’s two brightest “stars” appear to merge to create an amazing configuration. The Venus/Jupiter conjunction shouldn’t be missed!
On the last day of February, Venus and Jupiter meet, less than 1.3 degrees apart (2 full moon widths). Find them shortly after sunset before they set! The attention-grabbing pair are very low in the fading evening twilight that they require a totally unblocked western horizon for viewing. Look an hour after sunset; they stand nearly 20° high and remain visible until at least 8 P.M.
If you have a small telescope, take a look at Jupiter with its Great Red Spot and belts. The Giant Planet’s four Galilean moons appear in a line, shining like bright stars!
The full Moon of February crests Sunday, February 5. Here at the Almanac, we’ve long called February’s Moon the ”Snow Moon” due to the typically heavy snowfall that occurs this month in the Northern Hemisphere. Other Native American names for this Moon are: Make Branches Fall Into Pieces Moon, Raccoon Moon, and Hunger Moon. Read more about the February Snow Moon here!
The brighter constellation in the night sky is Orion, the Hunter of Greek mythology. Look first for that bright belt of three stars. The hunter’s shoulder is marked its bright red star Betelgeuse and its knee is marked by blue-white star Rigel. See our February Sky Map all about the constellation 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 brightest star of the February sky.
Use Orion’s three Belt stars to point northwest to the red star Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, then to the Pleiades star cluster.
Then travel southeast from the Belt stars to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. 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 far above the northeast horizon. It will climb upward during the evening hours to reach its high point for the night around midnight. Draw a line from its two end bowl stars upwards to the Polaris, the North Star. See my tips on finding the Big Dipper and the North Star.