Venus steals the show, while cold evenings offer crystal-clear stargazing.
Hello there, stargazers, and welcome to February. Besides Venus putting on a show, it’s yet another quiet month of specific highlights to get excited over. That said, cold temperatures give way to some of the clearest evenings of the year, so keep an eye for parting clouds and make some time to get out.
New Moon, Dark Skies (Feb. 1)
February’s new moon, when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun (and will not be visible from the Earth), will provide the best excuse yet to take in the full celestial beauty above. Absent moonlight, stars, planets, and galaxies will rule the night. Bundle up, grab a telescope or a pair of binoculars, and look up!
Catch a Crescent Venus at Its Brightest (Feb. 13)
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Venus will be putting on a show all month in the early morning sky. On Feb. 13, a crescent Venus will shine its brightest for the year. Look to the east in the pink twilight of dawn (use a small telescope to see its crescent phase) to catch this shining beacon. Venus won’t be this luminous again until July 2023.
Stay Warm Under a Full 'Snow Moon' (Feb. 16)
The full "snow moon," a reflection of the Northern Hemisphere’s snowiest month, reaches its peak at 11:59 a.m. EST on Wednesday, February 16. Stargazing during a full moon is complicated by moonlight for all but the brightest objects, but there’s no denying the beauty of evening "snow glow" on fresh powder. If you’re someone who enjoys hitting the slopes, the days leading up to and after February's full moon should offer some extended evening skiing, snowboarding, or tubing opportunities.
Venus and the Moon Share a Moment (Feb. 26)
On Feb. 26, the moon and Venus will come extremely close to one another to form a beautiful pairing in the pre-dawn sky. Look for them both in the southeastern sky just before sunrise. You may even spot a dimly-lit Mars attempting to crash the party to the lower right of Venus.
Our Solar System’s Brightest Asteroid Glides Between Mars and Venus (Feb. 27)
Want to see the brightest asteroid in our celestial neighborhood? In the early morning hours of Feb. 27, you’ll actually have a shot. According to John Jardine Goss at EarthSky, the asteroid Vesta (second in size in our solar system to only the dwarf planet Ceres) will stealthily lurk in the slice of sky between Venus and Mars. Should the weather cooperate you'll "need binoculars or a small telescope, away from city lights, to spot Vesta," shares Jardine Goss.
Fun fact about Vesta: Not only is this 326-mile-wide object extremely reflective (with a surface reflectivity of 43% compared to our own moon’s 12%), but it’s also home to our solar system’s highest mountain
. At an estimated 14 miles high (73,920 feet), it just barely beats out the 13.2 mile (69,649 feet) height of Olympus Mons on Mars.1
Eat your heart out, Mount Everest (29,032 feet).
Start of Milky Way Season Down Under (Late Feb.)
For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, late February marks the start of the best viewing conditions for taking in the beauty of the Milky Way. The ideal times are generally on dark evenings absent moonlight from midnight (when the Milky Way will be directly overhead) until 5 a.m. These exceptional viewing conditions generally last until late October. Best viewing conditions for the Milky Way in the Northern Hemisphere are typically from late March until late August.
Thanks for the great information on the Night Sky in February SunKat!