What’s Above Us – February 2021 Sky Report

The Winter Sky is still dominating after dark, and those who take advantage of the earlier sunsets and longer nights are treated to the Winter Hexagon!

Moon Phases January 2021

Last Quarter Moon February 4
New MoonFebruary 11
First Quarter MoonFebruary 19
Full Moon (Snow Moon) February 27
Your Deep Sky Viewing Window with little to no moon interference will be February 7-14

In The Evening

As the evening begins, you should notice Mars right away as that bright reddish-orange beacon in the sky, still higher up in the sky. In October 2020 it got as close as 38.6 million miles away from Earth, but is now about 109 million miles away! Through telescopes, it should definitely appear much smaller in angular size than it did 6 months ago!

After Mars, while Orion should be easy to identify with the 3 belt stars, the bright blue star to the bottom right, Rigel, forms part of an asterism known as the Winter Hexagon, where each of the stars are the brightest of their respective constellation. From Rigel, move up north to Aldebaran (Taurus), then to Capella (Auriga), shift east to Castor and Pollux (Gemini) , south east to Procyon (Canis Minor) , south to Sirius (Canis Major), and then back to Rigel!

The upper right reddish star of Orion – Betelgeuse, together with Procyon and Sirius, form the “Winter Triangle.”

In the Morning

Early birds who are up before dawn and look up see the spring stars high up, while the summer stars are rising low in the east, including the Summer Triangle.

If you notice Arcturus, use the phrase “spike to Spica” and look south to find a brighter blue star named Spica, the brightest in Virgo.

Speaking of Planets…

If anyone has seen this floating around or have seen similar posts…

NO! THIS MONTH WILL NOT BRING IN THE AGE OF AQUARIUS!

 At NO POINT in February 2021 will all seven planets be in front of Aquarius!

Jupiter, and Saturn will be in front of Capricorn; Mercury flips back and forth between Capricorn and Aquarius; Venus spends most of February in Capricorn; Mars moves from Aries to Taurus; Uranus remains in Aries; That leaves Neptune as the only planet that stays in front of Aquarius for February!

If you don’t care about that and just want to know what planets will be visible, Mars will be your only naked eye planet visible in the evening sky. In late February, you can glimpse Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury emerging from the Sun’s glare for a short window before sunrise. Venus will be largely lost to the Sun’s glare this month, and the only way to see it will be with careful optical aid.

Any Interesting Celestial Events?

The following text is color coded for the Celestial Event Scale.

February 11 – Venus Jupiter Conjunction

Category 2 – Notable

Venus and Jupiter will have a close conjunction, and both planets will be visible at the same time through a telescope. However, not only will this occur in close proximity to the Sun, you need to have an unobstructed view of the south eastern horizon just before sunrise to glimpse it with the naked eye. 

February 18 – Moon and Mars

Category 2 – Notable

You will have a first quarter moon meeting Mars once again in the sky. The pairing will be visible through binoculars and can be captured together with a telephoto lens up to 300 mm focal length.

What makes this particular night special is that this will be by the time you see the pairing, the Mars landing rover Perseverance will have just landed on the red planet! It will officially land on Mars at around 12:30 pm pacific time, and no it won’t be visible with any telescopes, but the sentimental value of looking up at Mars upon knowing a mission is successful is notable enough!

Support Your Neighborhood Astronomers

Most mainstream media sources get their info from people like us, but don’t always get it right! Help support those who observe the sky and look for cool events to check out so you don’t have to!

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