February night Sky Notes with Brian Woosnam of the North Wales Astronomy Society

The stars of winter are now beginning to wane and those of spring are eager to take their place Orion the hunter is still well placed in the early evening, but his position of dominance is now starting to ebb away.

As the Sun continues to rise higher in the sky so the evening sky gets lighter.

The Moon Phases

Full moon 5th Last quarter 13th First quarter 27th

The Planets

Mercury is an early morning object in the southeast in Sagittarius 40 minutes before sunrise for the first two weeks of the month. It will be rather low down so difficult to find.

Venus can be seen in the southwest in Pisces setting around 2hours after sunset. On the evening of 22nd will be join by Jupiter and a slender waxing crescent moon.

Mars can be found in the south around 8pm in Taurus but sadly passed its best and is now moving away from the Earth.

Jupiter can be found low down in the southwest in Pisces around 5.30pm and is now moving into the evening twilight.

The Constellations

From 8pm

The Great Orion Nebula is an emissions nebula and cluster 1,500 light years away and can be found just under the belt in Orion in the sword. From a dark site you can see the fuzzy patch with the naked eye but it a lovely site when viewed through a pair of 10x50 binoculars or a 4.5-inch telescope. It is an enormous cloud of fluorescent gas predominantly hydrogen with traces of helium. First discovered by Nicholas Peiresc in 1611.

Andromeda is in the West look for M31 the Andromeda spiral galaxy the next to our own galaxy some 2.3 million light years away. First observed on 3rd August 1764 by Charles Messier. Orion is in the South look for M42 above, Taurus is also in the South look for Pleiades open cluster also known as the seven sisters first observed on 4th March 1769 by Charles Messier 407 light years away most people can see seven stars but when viewed in a pair of binoculars or a small telescope many more stars can be seen. Gemini is in the Southeast and Cancer in the East look for Saturn and M44 the Beehive open cluster first observed on 4th March 1769 by Charles Messier 515 light years away.

From 10pm

Aries will be in the West, Taurus and Orion Southwest, Gemini is the Southwest, Cancer in the South, Leo and the Plough in the Southeast.

From Midnight

Taurus and Orion West, Gemini is the south, Cancer in the Southeast, Leo and the Plough in the East. If you have a telescope with a mirror 8inches (200mm) or bigger it is worth looking at the messier objects in Leo. In Leo we have M65 a spiral galaxy 24 million light years away, M66 a spiral galaxy 21.5 million light years away, M95 a barred spiral galaxy 26.5 million light years away, M96 another spiral galaxy 26.5 million light years away and M105 an elliptical galaxy. These are not easy to find the darker your site the better.

Deep sky objects

M44, M48, M81, M82, M67 and NGC2903

Events during the month

Thursday 2nd comet C/2022 E3 ZTF should be visible this evening with the naked eye from a dark site. Binoculars will show more detail.

Sunday 5th tonight's full moon is near apoagee which is its furest point away from Earth.

Monday 6th comet C/2022 E3 ZTF is now heading past the south part of Auriga.

Thursday 9th with the moon out of the way this evening is a good time to view the deep sky object around Orion.

Saturday 11th this evening comet C/2022 E3 ZTF will be close to Mars.

Monday 13th comet C/2022 E3 ZTF will be close to open cluster NCG 1647 in Tauras. Both located east of the Hyades open cluster.

Tuesday 14th comet C/2022 E3 ZTF is now just two degrees east of bright star Aldebaran in Taurus.

Thursday 16th tonight libation of the moon tilting the western limb towards us provides a good view of the Mare Orientale.

Saturday 18th fading comet C/2022 E3 ZTF is now heading south.

Wednesday 22nd look to the southwest to view bright Venus Jupiter and the waxing crecent moon.

Sunday 26th this evening the waxing crescent moon will be 2.7 degrees from the Pleiades open cluster.

Where to see the Comet