You are hereTHIS MONTH’S SKY - February 2012

THIS MONTH’S SKY - February 2012


Celestial Events -- February 2012


If predictions were correct, Comet Garradd should be at its peak brightness this month. As February begins the comet was expected to have magnitude about 7.1, brighten to 7.0 around mid-month, and back to 7.1 later in the month.

In the last few months Comet Garradd was in Hercules. But now it speeds up and moves into Draco on the 14th. On the morning of the 24th the comet is between magnitude 2.7 star Eta (η) Draconis and magnitude 4.0 Theta (θ) Draconis. On the last day of the month the comet moves into Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper's constellation..

Chart 1 is an all-sky chart showing the position of Comet Garradd at 6 AM February in 5-day intervals. Chart 2 is a close-up of the comet's path.

Chart 1. All-Sky.
Comet Garradd
6:00 AM


Chart 2. Close-up.
Comet Garradd
6:00 AM




Click to get sky charts and a description of the sky for this month.


MERCURY becomes visible in the evening sky late in the month. Look for it left of the Moon on the 22nd. The next two nights enjoy in order Jupiter, Venus, the Moon and Mercury, with Jupiter, Venus and Mercury in a straight line. Mercury remains visible the rest of February.

VENUS (magnitude -4.1 to -4.3, diameter 15.1" to 18.2", illumination 74% to 64%) is brilliant in the southwest sky. Watch it take aim at Jupiter -- the two planets are within 12° at month's end. Venus will pass Jupiter in March.

MARS (magnitude -0.6 to -1.2, diameter 11.8" to 13.8") is retrograding, moving from Virgo back to Leo on February 4th. Approaching its March 3rd opposition, Mars will be unusually large and bright. Enjoy watching it while you can -- Mars's oppositions are over two years apart.

JUPITER (magnitude -2.3 to -2.2, diameter 39.2" to 39.6") is in Aries. Watch it get lower week by week as it approaches Venus.

SATURN (magnitude +0.6 to +0.4, diameter 17.6" to 18.4") is in Virgo, not far from the bright star Spica. It begins retrograde motion on the 8th.

URANUS (magnitude +5.9, diameter 3.4") in Pisces is getting low in the west as the sky gets dark. It has a close conjunction with Venus on the 9th, with the two planets only 18' or about ⅓° apart.

NEPTUNE (magnitude +8.0, diameter 2.2"), is in conjunction with the Sun on the 19th and not visible this month.

PLUTO (magnitude +14.1, diameter 0.1") is in Sagittarius, too near the Sun to be seen.

See below for phases of the Moon and the Moon's conjunctions with planets and bright stars.

(Times in EST)

February 1 The Pleiades cluster is 4° above the Moon.
February 7 Mercury in superior conjunction, moving into evening sky.
  Full Moon at 4:54 PM.
February 8 Saturn stationary, beginning retrograde motion.
February 9 Mars is 9½° upper left of the Moon.
February 10 Venus passes 0.3° north of Uranus.
February 12 This morning Spica is less than 2½° upper left of the Moon. Saturn is 7° left of Spica.
February 14 Last Quarter Moon at 12:04 PM.
February 15 Mars is at aphelion (154.9 million miles from the Sun).
  Antares is 5⅓° below left of the Moon this morning.
February 19 Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun.
February 21 New Moon at 5:35 PM.
February 25 The Moon passes 3° above Venus this evening.
February 26 The Moon is 4° above right of Jupiter this evening.
February 28 Pleiades and the Moon are 4° apart
February 29 First Quarter Moon at 8:21 PM.
  Aldebaran is 5° below left of the Moon.