Sky at midnight on 22nd. February.
(Sky map generated from Heavens-Above.com)
Full Moon; 11th. February. New Moon; 26th. February.
Venus dominates the early evening sky: it is visible from sunset until around 21:15 shining at a magnificent -4.4. have a look at it with binoculars and see if you can make out its shape; it should look like a half-moon. This shape is known properly as ‘Dichotomy.’
Diagonally up to the left from Venus you will find Mars. It is a lot feinter than Venus shining at magnitude 1.1 it fades slightly over the month to 1.3 by the 28th. it sets at 21h50 by the month’s end. Even through a telescope not much detail will be seen as it is a very small object. It is still worth having a look at all the same. On the 1st Mars lies in-between Venus and the Moon.
Rising at 23:30 at the start of the month and at 21:40 by the end is the mighty planet Jupiter. It shines at a bright magnitude of -2.0 brightening to -2.2 by the 28th. Lying in the constellation Virgo, Jupiter can be found just to the north of the bright star Spica. Jupiter is always worth observing; look out for the four main moons of the planet; they are called the Galilean satellites as they were first observed by Galileo in 1610. Over a few nights you will be able to see them change position as they move around the planet. Through binoculars or a telescope they look like stars but you will know they are moons by the speed they change position. The moon passes just above Jupiter on the 15th and 16th.
If you want to see the ringed planet Saturn you’ll need to get up early. It rises around 5:10 in the morning at the start of February and at 3:30 by the end of the month. Although it is not too bright at magnitude 1.4 it lies in the unremarkable and feint constellation of Ophiuchus, the thirteenth sign of the zodiac. The moon passes by Saturn over the nights of the 20th. and 21st. to help you find it.
On This Day…
111 Years Ago – February 7th. 1906: Birthday of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of planet Pluto.
87 Years Ago – February 18th. 1930: Pluto was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh of the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff Arizona.
72 Years Ago – February 1945: Arthur C. Clarke wrote a letter to the editor of Wireless World describing geostationary communication satellites.
26 Years Ago — February 7th. 1991: the Soviet space station Salyut 7 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at 04:00 UTC.
From top left; Salyut 1 and Skylab. Below them Mir. On right at top Salyut 7, at bottom the Shuttle and the big structure is the International Space Station.