(Please note all times are UT and are based on an observing location of Belfast and covers the month of February)
At the start of the month, the Sun rises at 08:15 and sets at 17:00. By month's end, it rises at 07:15 and sets at 18:00.
On the evening of the 26th, there is a planetary conjunction when the distance between Mars and Uranus will be 35 arcminutes.
Mercury is not visible this month.
Venus is visible in the evening sky this month in Pisces. It sets at around 21:30 during the month. It maintains its brightness at mag -4.4 during the month.
Mars is visible in the evening sky this month in Pisces. It is visible as soon as darkness falls during the month and sets at 22:05 by month’s end. It fades from mag +1.1 to mag +1.3 during the month.
Jupiter is visible this month in Virgo. It starts the month as a morning object, but is visible in the evening sky by month’s end. At the start of the month, it rises at 23:45, by month’s end; it rises at 21:55. It brightens from mag -2.0 to mag -2.2 during the month.
Saturn is visible in the morning sky this month, moving from Ophiuchus to Sagittarius. At the start of the month, it rises at 05:30, by month’s end it rises at 03:55. It brightens from mag +1.4 to mag +1.3 during the month.
Uranus is visible in the evening sky this month in Pisces. During the month, it rises during daylight hours and sets at 21:55 by month’s end. It maintains its brightness at mag +5.9 during the month. A finder chart for Uranus is available from the below Information Sources and Links Section.
Neptune is not visible this month.
The first quarter moon is on the 4th with the full moon on the 11th. The last quarter moon is on the 18th with the new moon on the 26th.
There is a penumbral lunar eclipse on the night of the 10th/11th. It starts at 22:34 with the mid eclipse point at 00:44. It ends at 02:53. The moon will be in the Earth’s outer shadow so the effect will be more subtle without the red/orange colour of a total eclipse.
1st pm the waxing crescent lies NE of Venus and Mars at 19:00.
2nd pm the waxing crescent lies E of Uranus at 19:00.
5th pm the waxing gibbous lies SW of Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri, mag +0.9) at 19:00.
11th pm the waning gibbous lies S of Regulus (Alpha (α) Leonis, mag +1.4) at 20:00.
15th pm the waning gibbous lies E of Jupiter and Spica (Alpha (α) Virginis, mag +1.0) at Midnight.
19th am the waning crescent lies N of Antares (Alpha (α) Scorpii, mag +1.0) at 05:00.
21st am the waning crescent lies NE of Saturn at 05:00.
28th pm the waxing crescent lies SE of Venus at 19:00.
The best time to observe meteor showers is when the moon is below the horizon; otherwise its bright glare limits the number you will see especially the fainter ones. Below is a guide to this month's showers.
There are no bright meteor showers this month.
There may be additional minor showers this month, details of which can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section.
Asteroid (14) Irene is at opposition on the evening of 18th at 18:00. It will be mag +9.0 in Leo and will be visible from 20:00.
Asteroid (15) Eunomia is at opposition during daylight hours on the 20th. It will be mag +9.2 in Sextans and will be visible from 21:00 on the evenings of the 19th and 20th.
Asteroid (9) Metis is at opposition on the morning of the 22nd at 02:00. It will be mag +9.1 in Leo and will be visible from 20:00 on the night of the 21st/22nd.
Finder charts and further information about other fainter asteroids can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section.
Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) is currently mag +10 and brightening slowly. In February, it will be moving from Bootes to Hercules and will be circumpolar, albeit very low at the start of the month and gaining altitude as the month progresses. Between the 18th and the 22nd, it lies between Upsilon (υ) Herculis, mag +4.7 and Phi (φ) Herculis mag +4.2. It is predicted to peak at mag +7 during the summer.
Comet C/2015 ER61 (PanSTARRS) is currently mag +10 and brightening. In February, it will be a morning object moving from Scorpius to Sagittarius. It will be visible around 06:00 during the month. It is predicted to peak at between mag +4 and +7 in May.
Comet 2P/Encke is currently mag +11 and is predicted to brighten to mag +8 by the end of February. It can be located near the circlet asterism in Pisces. It is visible in the early evening sky, setting at 21:00 at the start of the month. By month’s end, it drops out of view by 19:00.
Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková is currently mag +7 and is predicted to fade rapidly in February. At the start of the month, it is in Aquila. It then moves through Hercules and Corona Borealis into Bootes by mid-month. After that it is in Canes Venatici and Coma Berencies before ending the month in Leo. It is visible in the morning sky from 06:00 at the start of the month. By mid-month, it has become an evening object, visible from 22:00. By month’s end, it is visible from 19:00.
On the morning of the 3rd, it lies near to Eta (η) Aquilae, mag +3.8. On the morning of the 5th, it lies near to Delta (δ) Aquilae, mag +3.3. On the evening of the 15th, it can be found near the globular cluster M3 in CV and on the morning of the 20th, it lies near to Gamma (γ) Comae Berencies, mag +4.4.
Finder charts and further information about the above and other fainter comets can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section. Any of the above estimates are based on current information at the time of writing the guide and can be wrong - “Comets are like cats; they have tails, and they do precisely what they want”, David H Levy.
On the deep sky front this month, galaxies M81 and M82 can be observed in Ursa Major. In Andromeda, M31 - The Andromeda galaxy can be observed along with its satellite galaxies M32 and M110. In Perseus, there is the open cluster M34 and the excellent Double Cluster - NGC 869 and 884. In Triangulum, there is the galaxy M33. In Auriga there are three open clusters M36, M37 and M38 and also M35 in Gemini. Taurus has the excellent Pleiades - M45, the Hyades and also M1 - The Crab Nebula. Orion returns to our skies with M42 - The Great Orion Nebula and also Cancer with M44 - The Beehive Cluster and M67. Check out the constellation Canes Venatici with the globular cluster - M3 and several galaxies including M51 - the Whirlpool Galaxy and M63 - the Sunflower Galaxy. In Leo, we have several galaxies on view including The Leo Triplet - M65, M66 and NGC 3628. M95, M96 and M105 can also be observed in Leo. The place to really find galaxies is in Virgo. The Virgo Super Cluster can be found here with numerous galaxies on view. In Coma Berenices, there is M64 - the Black-Eye Galaxy.
Always keep an eye out for Aurorae. Other interesting naked eye phenomena to look out for include the Zodiacal Light and the Gegenschein.
Both are caused by sunlight reflecting off dust particles which are present in the solar system. The Zodiacal Light can be seen in the West after evening twilight has disappeared or in the East before the morning twilight. The best time of year to see the phenomenon is late-Feb to early-April in the evening sky and September/October in the morning sky - it's then that the ecliptic, along which the cone of the zodiacal light lies, is steepest in our skies. The Gegenschein can be seen in the area of the sky opposite the sun. To view either, you must get yourself to a very dark site to cut out the light pollution. When trying to observe either of these phenomena, it is best to do so when the moon is below the horizon. A new appendix has been added explaining some of the more technical terms used in the guide.