Venus will be the first evening planet to be seen as the twilight fades. The planet will be seen in the SW at Dusk. Venus’s brightness stays the same all month long. The planet’s slow climb in altitude has finally paid off. Venus now sets after darkness falls. This is the start of Venus fine evening showing which will last until July. Venus’s altitude increase is moving her closer to Jupiter for a fine planetary conjunction at the end of the month.
Jupiter situation is the reverse of Venus. Jupiter is quickly losing altitude and brightness as the month progresses. Jupiter is in the West and to the upper left of Venus. Each evening Jupiter is slowly moving toward Venus. By the end of the month, Jupiter is next to Venus for a fine planetary conjunction.
Mars is high up in the South as evening darkness falls. As the planet slowly moves away from Earth, Mars brightness will decrease considerably as the month progresses. The decrease in Mars brightness will cause its color to fade and darken. This is the end of the prime telescopic viewing of Mars for this year. Mars like Venus will still be around even into the evening July skies.
Mercury is still the sole bright morning planet in the Dawn SSE sky. The first two weeks of the month, the planet should be somewhat easy to see. During this time, Mercury is slowly losing altitude each morning. This altitude loss is going to make the planet harder to see as it slowly sinks into the Dawn’s bright twilight. Sometime around the last few days of February, the planet moves into the bright Dawn twilight and is lost from view.
3 Feb Waxing Gibbous Moon and bright stars Castor and Pollux form a line, Evening
6 Feb Almost Full Moon left of bright star Regulus, Evening
10 Feb Waning Gibbous Moon East of bright star Spica, Late Evening
14 Feb Thick Crescent Moon Right of bright Star Antares, Dawn
21 Feb Waxing Crescent Moon near Venus, Dusk
22 Feb Thin Crescent Moon just left of Jupiter, Dusk
27 Feb Moon just right of Mars, Evening
28 Feb – 4 Mar Jupiter Venus Conjunction, Dusk
February Smallest Full Moon:
On Sunday, 5 February when the Moon rises around 5 pm; Moon Watchers might be in for a surprise. Careful inspection of the rising Full Moon may reveal it to be slightly smaller and a tad dimmer than normal. This effect is caused by the greater than normal distance of the Moon from the Earth. This is the smallest Full Moon of the year.
Jupiter – Venus Conjunction:
In the Dusk twilight on the 28 February to 4 March, Jupiter will have an extremely close approach to Venus. This conjunction is between the two brightest planets in the sky at this time. Venus is the obvious brighter of the 2 planets. The closest approach comes on 2 March but for 2 days before and after this date, the planets are still extremely close. This is the best planetary conjunction of the year. Both planets should be visible in the West about ½ hour after Sunset. Both planets will set about 1.5 hours after Sunset… Although this conjunction is easy to see with the unaided eye, binoculars will enhance the view. This event is favorable for our viewing area.
February’s 8 Day-Old Moon:
On the evening of 28 February, the 8 Day Old Moon (One day past First Quarter) will be very high in the Southern Sky at Dusk. This 8 Day Old Moon is in its best and highest position for the year. This would be a great opportunity to explore the Moon by viewing it in a telescope or giant binoculars. This Moon is extremely favorable for our viewing area.
February’s Notable Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
This month’s notable Comet is moving into the evening sky. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) (Zwicky Transient Facility) garnished some notoriety in some news reports due to its faint greenish color. The Comet should come close to the Earth around 2 February. Some news reports have played up this “close approach” and the comet’s faint greenish color to make it seem that this comet is going to be easy to see. It seems that 2 factors were not mentioned in some of the news reports. The actual predicted brightness of the comet and the Full Moon. Around the 2 February or so, the comet will just be barely visible to the unaided eye. The bright Moon will strongly interfere with seeing the Comet all night long from 1 – 7 February. The comet will also be in the dim Constellation of Camelopardalis on 2 February and there’s no bright stars near it to help locate the Comet. The Gibbous and Full Moon brightness will make it extremely difficult to find and see the Comet. When the Comet is just to the lower left of the bright star Capella on 5 February; the Full Moon will strongly interfere with seeing the Comet at all. After 7 February, the Moon will be out of the way for a while for any early evening view. The best chance to catch a glimpse of this Comet will be on 10 February when the Comet is just to the upper right of the Planet Mars. If predictions come true by that date, the comet will fade some in brightness and may be very hard to see with the unaided eye. Thus C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is probably going to be more of a binocular comet and not an easy unaided eye comet. Comet Viewers should not get their expectations up too high about the unaided eye view of this Comet.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society