Night sky guide for February 2015

Night sky guide for February 2015

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The period of February through March is not known meteor activity, however, the fireball season starts this month and will last until April. The best fireball activity occurs during the early evening hours so watch out for those bright balls of fire.

There are only a couple of weak showers expected in Northern Hemisphere this month but Southern Hemisphere observers can enjoy Alpha Centaurids which will peak on February 8. Although meteors from this stream have been seen as early as February 2 and as late as February 25 it is difficult to detect it except on its peak night when they can produce hourly rates of 3 - 5.

Next major meteor shower is scheduled for the nights of April 22 and 23 when Lyrids are expected to peak.

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is performing better than expected and you should still be able to find it as it drifts northward into the stars of Andromeda.

  • February 3 - Full Moon - 23:09 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon.

  • February 6 - Jupiter at opposition. Jupiter will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph this big planet and its moons. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see its four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter's cloud bands.

  • February 8 - NGC 2808 is well placed. Across much of the world the globular cluster NGC 2808 in Carina will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of -64°51', it is easiest to see from the Southern Hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 5°N. At magnitude 6.2, NGC2808 is quite faint, and certainly not visible to the naked eye, but can be viewed through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

  • February 13 - Conjunction between the Moon and Saturn. The Moon and Saturn will make a close approach, passing within 2°06' of each other. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon will be at mag -11.7, and Saturn at mag 1.1, both in the constellation Scorpius. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

  • February 15 - Asteroid 8 Flora at opposition. Asteroid 8 Flora will be well placed for observation, lying in the constellation Leo, well above the horizon for much of the night. Regardless of your location on the Earth, Flora will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. Finding Flora​.

  • February 18 - New Moon - 23:47 UTC. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

  • February 19 - M81 is well placed. Bode's galaxy (M81, NGC 3031) in Ursa Major will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of +69°04', it is easiest to see from the Northern Hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much south of 0°S. At magnitude 7.9, M81 is quite faint, and certainly not visible to the naked eye, but can be viewed through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

  • February 21 - NGC 3114 is well placed. Across much of the world the open star cluster NGC 3114 in Carina will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the skyat around midnight local time. At a declination of -60°07', it is easiest to see from the Southern Hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 9°N. At magnitude 4.2, NGC3114 is tricky to make out with the naked eye except from a dark site, but is visible through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

  • February 22 - Conjunction of Venus and Mars. A conjunction of Venus and Mars will be visible on February 22. The two bright planets will be visible within only half a degree of each other in the evening sky. Look for them in the west just after sunset.

  • February 24 - Mercury at greatest western elongation - 19:00 UTC. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 26.7 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky.

  • February 26 - Neptune at solar conjunction. From our vantage point on the Earth, Neptune will appear very close to the Sun in the sky as it passes around the far side of the solar system from the Earth. At closest approach, Neptune and the Sun will appear at a separation of only 0°43', making Neptune totally unobservable for several weeks while it is lost in the Sun's glare. At around the same time, Neptune will also be at its most distant from the Earth – receding to a distance of 30.96 AU – since the two planets will lie on opposite sides of the solar system.

  • February 27 - IC2581 is well placed. Across much of the world the open star cluster IC 2581 in Carina will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of -57°37', it is easiest to see from the Southern Hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 12°N. At magnitude 4.3, IC2581 is tricky to make out with the naked eye except from a dark site, but is visible through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

Sources: InTheSky, AMS, MeteorShowersOnline, SeaSky

Featured image: Solar System Scope background (February 6, 2015). Edit: The Watchers

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Comments

Soji John 3 years ago

I saw a very bright light like 40 - 60 shooting star all together, color was like violet or purple color light, it becomes a day like feeling but in violet or purple color from South India, Feb 27 2015, time 10 45 night

peter 4 years ago

Feb 3 2015 Why does there appear to be a crescent sliver on bottom of full moon? I'm viewing from east coast.

Zohair 4 years ago

I think this is a good guide to space

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