Mars will be the only “easy” planet to see in our evening skies in February, high up in the west. On February 23rd, the red planet will be just below the blue-white star cluster called the Pleiades, (M 45). Because Mars is now 3 times farther away from Earth than it was at its October opposition, it is much dimmer, though it remains easy to spot. It is as bright as any of the brightest stars. Telescope views of Mars will not yield as much detail either.
Four planets congregate in our pre-dawn eastern skies, though for the most part this month, they will be too close to the Sun to be seen except in twilight. However, on February 20th (Saturday morning), three of the four planets will form a triangle shape.
Saturn and Mercury rise at 5:40 am local time, just 4 degrees apart; with Jupiter rising to the left of Saturn and below Mercury about 20 minutes later. Best time to look for this trio of planets would be about 30 minutes before sunrise, looking East.
On moonless nights in February, March, and April it is possible to find the zodiacal light. This subtle glow in the sky arises from sunlight reflected from meteorite dust that lies in the plane of our solar system. During the next 3 months the ecliptic (Earth’s orbital plane around the Sun) becomes more steeply inclined to the horizon. So we look for a faint, cone-shaped glow along the ecliptic reaching from the western horizon up through Pisces, Aries, and Taurus (at its narrowest). The first two weeks of February are best for looking for the zodiacal light as the Moon will be in the morning sky.
It will be hard to find the zodiacal light from cities or towns (too much stray light), but it is easier when looking in more rural or country sites with skies dark to the west. Cast your eyes west and gradually raise them up toward the zenith right about the time when twilight is ending.
A crescent Moon will be just below the planet Uranus on February 17th, but binoculars will be needed to spot this very dim and distant planet as a greenish-blue dot. Worth a try though!
Full Moon is one day before February ends; on the night of the 27th.
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