The Visible Planets
Mercury is seen very low along the southeastern horizon, emerging out of the Sun’s glow before sunrise from about February 4 to February 17. From our more northerly latitude, Mercury has a hard time getting out the glow of the rising Sun. However, from a more southerly latitude, Mercury is seen higher in the southeastern sky and is fully out of the glare of rising Sun. This month is a favourable time this year for those in more southerly latitudes to view Mercury. Look for a nice triangular grouping of Mercury, with the bright planet Venus and the not-so-bright planet Mars, low in the southeastern pre-dawn sky from February 5 to 14.
Venus is seen shining brightly just above the southeastern horizon before sunrise this month. It appears brightest on the morning of January 12, shining with a magnitude of -4.9. Look Venus above the fainter planet Mars and the very thin waning crescent Moon before sunrise on February 27.
Mars is seen rising before the Sun along the southeastern horizon and is seen below the much brighter planet Venus. It spends the entire month traversing the stars of the constellation of Sagittarius, the archer. Watch Mars over the next several months as it slowly begins to brighten as it approaches opposition and its closest approach to Earth later this year on December 7.
Jupiter starts the month being visible low in the southwestern sky, amongst the stars of Aquarius, after sunset but slowly sinks lower night by night only to be lost in the glare of the setting Sun by mid-month. Jupiter can be found just above the thin waxing crescent Moon after sunset on the night of February 2. Jupiter will re-emerge low in our southeastern sky before sunrise around the last week of March.
Saturn is not visible this month from our location. It will begin to re-emerge out of the Sun’s glare in the predawn sky in early March.
February 8 First Quarter Moon
February 16 Full Moon (Snow Blinding Moon)
February 23 Last Quarter Moon
International Space Station (ISS) Observable Passes
Look for passes of the International Space Station in the early evening sky for the first five days of February. It then can be seen during passes before sunrise from February 19 to the end of the month. Exact times of these passages for your location can be found by visiting the website http://www.heavens-above.com or by using satellite tracking smart phone apps like Sputnik.
February 1 Very sad 19th Anniversary of the loss of the Shuttle Columbia and Crew (2003).
February 2 Groundhog Day
February 4 Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun
February 7 The planet Uranus is found just 2 degrees above the waxing crescent Moon tonight. Use binoculars to view the two together!
February 12 Venus at greatest brilliancy, -4.9 magnitude.
February 14 Valentine’s Day
February 14 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Edmonton Centre meeting
Virtual Zoom meeting. Free for anyone to attend.
See http://www.edmontonrasc.com for more details.
February 16 Mercury is at its greatest elongation west of 26 degrees
February 18 Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto 92 years ago (1930).
February 21 Family Day holiday (Alberta)
February 27 Waning crescent Moon found 4 degrees south of Mars (pre-dawn SE sky)
February 28 Axiom Space will launch Ax-1 onboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon, the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station with four crewmembers. They will remain in orbit for eight days.