Stargazing at the End of February
What’s on your stargazing to-do list for this week? In today’s article, we’ll give you some ideas on what to observe in the sky this week, February 23 — 28, 2021.
The February Moon
For the second consecutive week, the Moon will be shining brightly in the evening sky for observers all around the world. Let’s run through some encounters the Moon will have this week!
On Tuesday night, the Moon will pass very close to the medium-bright star designated Kappa Geminorum, which marks the eastern hand of the twin Pollux. The event will make a pretty sight in binoculars and telescopes.
On Wednesday night, the almost full Moon will pass to the upper left of the Beehive, an even larger open star cluster in Cancer. The cluster sits close to the Ecliptic — so the Moon and planets frequently buzz the Beehive.
From Thursday to Saturday, the very bright Moon will cross the constellation of Leo and its brightest star Regulus. The Moon will officially become full at 3:17 a.m. EST (8:17 GMT) on Saturday morning. We’ll reveal more details about the February full Moon in our future article.
The Bright Planets
Mars and Uranus are the only observable planets during the evening nowadays. Faint Neptune is embedded within the western twilight after sunset — and Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are all grouped just west of the Sun in the southeastern pre-dawn sky. Remember that no matter the celestial bodies’ visibility, you can always see them with the help of Star Walk 2. The augmented reality feature will immerse you in the starry night sky even if you stay home.
Mars was in the news this week with the successful touchdown of the Perseverance Rover and his little drone-copter Ingenuity. You can look for small, reddish Mars between dusk and almost midnight every night, but it has been getting fainter and smaller in telescopes with each passing week. Mars will set just before 1 a.m. local time, so be sure to take your look early while it’s higher in the sky.
Meanwhile, dim and distant Uranus will be located to Mars’ lower right. The two brightest stars of Aries, the magnitude 2.0 star Hamal and its slightly dimmer magnitude 2.6 neighbor star Sheratan are located to the upper right of Uranus.
View Uranus early in the evening, too, when it’s higher in the sky and shining through less of Earth’s distorting atmosphere.
Saturn and Mercury will rise together first — at about 6 a.m. in your local time zone. Saturn will be situated less than a palm’s width to the right of Mercury. The speedy planet will move lower and a bit farther from Saturn during this week. Try to spot Mercury first, as it will shine almost twice as brightly as Saturn. Much brighter Jupiter will rise 20 minutes later — but the sky will have brightened more during that interval.
So these are our stargazing suggestions for the week. Happy observations!