Evening planetsSay goodbye to Saturn, as it rapidly sinks into the setting sun’s glare after the first week of February. Look on Feb. 1 to see a diagonal row of three bright planets. Saturn will be hugging the treetops; while Venus and Jupiter are easy to spot.
If you have a good west-southwest horizon, can you spy Saturn on Feb. 7.
If skies clear on Jan. 30, look high to the south at about 9 p.m. to find a fat gibbous moon just a bit to the right of Mars. Grab your scope and use low power to see both the moon and Mars in the same field of view.
Each night, notice that Venus is gaining altitude as Neptune and Jupiter are sinking. First, Venus will encounter Neptune.
Watch on Feb. 14 for the apparent gathering of Venus and Neptune. Take out your binoculars on Valentine’s Day night at 6:30 p.m. Look low to the southwest to spot bright Venus. Then, pull your binoculars up about a moon width and slightly to the left of Venus to spot a dim star. That will be Neptune.
The young crescent moon visits Venus and Neptune on Feb. 21 and Jupiter on Feb. 22. An eight-day old moon makes another close visit to Mars on Feb. 27. This will be the last lunar Mars conjunction of 2023.
The best bright planetary conjunction of Venus and Jupiter occurs as February closes and March begins. Look low to the west southwest at 7 p.m. March 1 to spy brilliant Venus with bright Jupiter about a moon width to the left.
This is the closest gathering of Jupiter and Venus in the evening sky for many years. Cross your finger for a clear night. Feb. 28 and March 2 find the bright duo about 1 degree apart, still a beautiful pairing.Dawn planets
Mercury is at its best as the Morning Star as February opens. Scan the southeast horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise to find Mercury, an extra star in Sagittarius.
By mid-month, Mercury will be difficult to find in the bright dawn twilight. As February closes, Saturn will be crossing Aquarius as Mercury approaches in Capricornus. Both worlds will be lost in the sunrise glare.
Saturn will replace Mercury in March as the Morning Star.The green comet
Perhaps you have heard about the Green Comet. It was discovered on March 2, 2022, by the 48” Oschin Schmidt Telescope on Mount Palomar of the Zwicky Transient Facility. It is officially called Comet ZFT 2022 E3.
This modestly bright comet may be visible from a dark country site without moonlight this month. Unfortunately, the comet is forecast to be brightest on Groundhog’s Day with a very bright, nearly full moon.
Better views will occur after Feb. 8 as the moon does not rise in the early evening. Look toward the north, high above Mars. Binoculars will spy a small grey-white fuzzy ball. That’s Comet ZFT.
Check out the UCC Morgan Observatory website for details about a live comet viewing session on Feb. 10.
Umpqua Astronomers meetingUmpqua Astronomers and the interested public can join a virtual meeting monthly on Zoom. The meeting time is 7 p.m. Feb. 7. Doug Pieschel will host and will discuss astronomy news and winter stargazing will be discussed.
For details on how to join the meeting, visit umpquaastronomers.org, bit.ly/2CDXbll, email email@example.com or call 541-673-1081.
Jan. 30: Mars and the Moon Feb. 1: Three bright planets diagonal line Feb. 2: Comet ZFT (C2022 E3) at brightest Feb. 4: Mercury best at dawn Feb. 5: Full Moon Feb. 7: Umpqua Astronomers Meeting Feb. 13: Last Quarter Moon Feb. 14: Venus Neptune conjunction Feb. 20: New Moon Feb. 21: Moon by Neptune and Venus Feb. 22: Moon by Jupiter Feb. 27: Moon and Mars, First Quarter Moon March 1: Venus Jupiter Conjunction
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