What’s in the Sky Tonight: February 2023
The night sky in February offers many wonders for stargazers from both hemispheres. Read on to find out when and where to see them. For even more astronomical events this year, check out our Astronomy Calendar 2023.
Planets visible from the Northern Hemisphere
The brightest Venus (magnitude -3.9) shines low above the southwestern horizon in the evening. It will be located in the constellation Aquarius first and then move to Pisces. The reddish Mars can be seen in the evening and at night in Taurus. Its apparent magnitude drops from -0.3 to 0.4 during February. Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) is visible after sunset in the southwest, in the constellation Pisces. Mercury (magnitude -0.3) begins the month very low in the east before sunrise in Sagittarius and then disappears in the Sun’s glow.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9) can be seen through binoculars or telescopes in the evening and at night. You’ll find Uranus in the constellation Aries and Neptune — in Pisces.
Saturn (magnitude 0.8) is too close to the Sun to be a good target for observation. It will reappear as a morning planet in March.
To find out when a planet will reach its highest position in the sky for your exact location, and its rise/set times, use the Sky Tonight app. Open the search window and find the celestial object you’re interested in or find out what is visible in the sky in general by using the Visible Tonight window (the telescope icon on the main screen).
Planets visible from the Southern Hemisphere
Mercury (magnitude -0.3) is easier to see from southern latitudes. Look for the elusive planet in the east in the morning, low above the horizon in Sagittarius and then Capricornus. Venus (magnitude -3.9) hangs low above the western horizon in the evening hours; the planet can be viewed in the constellation Aquarius first and then it moves to Pisces. The reddish Mars (magnitude 0.4) in the constellation Taurus is visible during the evening and night. Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) can be seen very low in the west for no more than an hour in the constellation Pisces.
Look for Uranus (magnitude 5.7) in the northwest in the constellation Aries. Neptune (magnitude 7.9) is also low in the west constellation Pisces. Both planets rise above the horizon in the evening. Don’t forget to use a telescope or at least grab your binoculars.
Find out when a planet is best visible from your sites with the Sky Tonight app. It also shows when a planet or any other celestial object rises and sets for your exact location and helps you plan a stargazing night.
In early February, observers in both hemispheres can see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). The comet reaches its brightest on February 1 (about magnitude 5) — look for it in the constellation Camelopardalis. For more details on comet ZTF, see our dedicated article.
Telescope owners can also look for P/96 Machholz (magnitude 10.5) low in the southeast in the constellation Aquila. The comet rises above the horizon in the morning.
- February 4: the Moon passes near the Beehive Cluster in the constellation Cancer. Our natural satellite reaches the furthest distance from the Earth (406,476 km or 252,572 miles);
- February 5: Full Moon;
- February 6: the Moon passes 4.5° from Regulus in the constellation Leo;
- February 11: the Moon passes 3.6° from Spica in the constellation Virgo;
- February 14: the Moon passes 1.9° from Antares in the constellation Scorpio;
- February 19: the Moon reaches the closest distance to the Earth (358,267 km or 222,617 miles);
- February 20: New Moon;
- February 22: the Moon passes 1°50' from Venus in the constellation Pisces and then 1°03' from Jupiter in the constellation Cetus. The lunar occultation of Jupiter is visible from parts of South America and Antarctica;
- February 25: lunar occultation of Uranus (visible from Canada and Greenland);
- February 26: the Moon passes 2.1° from the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus;
- February 28: the Moon passes 1°03' from Mars in the constellation Taurus. The lunar occultation of Mars is visible from parts of Northern Europe and Greenland.
There will be no noticeable meteor shower peaks visible in the Northern Hemisphere in February. However, it’s still worth going outside, especially during the New Moon week. Remember that sporadic meteors (not associated with a particular meteor shower) can be seen anytime!
Observers from the Southern Hemisphere can try to catch some “shooting stars” from the Alpha Centaurids. This minor meteor shower produces up to 6 meteors per hour during the peak. In 2023, its maximum activity occurs shortly after the Full Moon, so the bright moonlight will wash out most meteors.
How to navigate the night sky?
You can easily identify sky objects using the Sky Tonight app. Launch the app and point your device up; the app will show you the interactive sky map for your location. Tap the big blue button in the lower right corner of your screen to turn on the AR mode; it will overlay the sky map on the real sky image from your camera.
February 2023 is an excellent month for observing planets, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), and other sky objects. You won’t even need binoculars or a telescope to see them! However, a stargazing app will come in handy — use the Sky Tonight mobile app to find all the celestial objects and information about them for free.
We wish you clear skies and happy stargazing!