Deep-Sky Objects of February 2023
Find out what noteworthy deep-sky objects are well-placed for observations this February! To learn when an object is visible from your location, use the Sky Tonight app.
Note, that for those sites where objects are visible, they will culminate (rise to the highest point in the sky) around midnight local time.
What are deep-sky objects?
The term “deep-sky object” denotes three types of space objects that exist outside our Solar System — galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. They are listed in dozens of deep-sky catalogs, with the most popular among amateur astronomers being the Messier catalog (110 entries) and the NGC catalog (7,850 entries). Astronomers also use other catalogs that list different types of deep-sky objects:
- Caldwell (star clusters, nebulae, galaxies);
- Collinder (open star clusters);
- Melotte (open and globular clusters);
- IC (star clusters, nebulae, galaxies);
- Barnard (dark nebulae)
You can explore these catalogs in the astronomy app Sky Tonight which includes more than 90,000 deep-sky objects. All of them are available for free! To find an object you’re interested in, tap the magnifier icon, write the object’s name or catalog designation in the search field, and choose it from the list. The app will show you detailed information about it. To locate this object in the sky above, tap on the target icon.
- Date: February 8, 2023
- Magnitude: 6.2
- Constellation: Carina
- Moon illumination: 95%
- Best observed from: Latitudes south of 5°N
- How to observe: You can’t see NGC 2808 with the naked eye; it’s only visible through binoculars or a small telescope. In the southern latitudes, by the time this star cluster rises at its highest in the night sky, the waning gibbous Moon will be positioned near the horizon and won’t interfere with observations.
- Description: NGC 2808 is one of the Milky Way’s most massive globular star clusters — it contains millions of stars. It’s estimated to be 12.5 billion years old.
Bode’s Galaxy (M81, NGC 3031) 🌟
- Date: February 19, 2023
- Magnitude: 6.9
- Constellation: Ursa Major
- Moon illumination: 3%
- Best observed from: Latitudes north of 0°
- How to observe: View M81 with a pair of binoculars or any telescope (the one with an aperture of 8″ or more will show more detail under dark skies). This galaxy is bright enough to be seen under the light-polluted sky. The almost New Moon won’t hinder the view. Spot Bode’s Galaxy about 10° northwest of Dubhe, in the corner of the Big Dipper’s bowl.
- Description: M81 is a large and bright spiral galaxy that is also known as the “grand design” spiral galaxy. This means that the galaxy’s shape is clearly defined, and it has a well-organized spiral structure. First discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1774, M81 is sometimes referred to as “Bode’s Galaxy”. It’s one of the brightest galaxies in our night sky!
- Date: February 21, 2023
- Magnitude: 4.2
- Constellation: Carina
- Moon illumination: 1%
- Best observed from: Latitudes south of 9°N
- How to observe: You can try to see NGC 3114 with the unaided eye. However, you’ll need very sharp eyesight and a dark, clear sky to see it, so it’s easier to observe the cluster via binoculars or a telescope. Luckily, the almost invisible waxing crescent Moon won’t interfere with observations.
- Description: NGC 3114 is quite a difficult object to study because of the high number of field stars from the Milky Way’s disk. This star cluster measures 35' across, which is about 30% larger than the size of the Full Moon in the sky.
- Date: February 27, 2023
- Magnitude: 4.3
- Constellation: Carina
- Moon illumination: 52%
- Best observed from: Latitudes south of 12°N
- How to observe: Similar to the previous member of the list, IC 2581 can be seen with the naked eye under the clear skies with sharp eyesight. If you want to see it in detail, use binoculars or a small telescope. The first quarter Moon will set by midnight, so you’ll get a chance to see the cluster without let or hindrance.
- Description: IC 2581 is the open star cluster that is very similar to the previous member of our list, NGC 3114. It takes a region of about 30' in the sky, which is a bit larger than the size of the Full Moon.
Now you know what deep-sky objects are best visible in February. If you manage to see one of them in the sky, don’t hesitate to share your observation experience with us on social media. To get even more knowledge about deep-sky objects, take our fun quiz “Guess the Nebula!”.
Find out what else to see in the sky this year from our complete astronomy calendar 2023. All the noteworthy meteor showers, planetary conjunctions, and eclipses are included.
We wish you clear skies and successful observations!