Western Slope Skies
Thu January 31, 2013
Planets of February
In our Western skies, three planets are visible with the naked eye or binoculars during February evenings. They are Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury.
Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky, besides the Moon. It has been visible at night for several months. During February, Jupiter is high in the south as darkness falls.
On the 17th, our Moon will lie just west of Jupiter. On the 18th, the Moon will be just east of Jupiter.
With an un-obstructed horizon, Mars may be visible just after sunset in the west-southwest. While you may be able to see it with the naked eye from a dark location, binoculars should make Mars easier to see. Mars will disappear into bright evening twilight after February, but will reappear in the morning sky in June.
Mercury orbits close to our sun, well inside the Earth’s orbit. This means that Mercury is only visible just after sunset or before sunrise.
On February 8th, Mercury and Mars will be very close together. Mercury will be the brighter of the two. On Feb 10th and 11th, a thin crescent moon will be visible in evening twilight, near both Mercury and Mars.
If you are ambitious, you can get up before sunrise and see Venus and Saturn. Saturn rises just before midnight in February and will be high in the southern sky by morning twilight. However, Venus rises just before the Sun and will only be visible for a short time and only because it is very bright. Remember to NEVER look directly into the Sun.
After February, Venus will not be visible, until it reappears during evening twilight in May.
Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.