A monthly look at astronomical events in the sky and on Earth
Compiled by Steve Sawyer
Hi welcome to Februarys Whatsup. Hope you all had a good January and managed to survive ‘Blue Monday’! We’re now in the last month of winter so try to make the most of the dark winter evenings!
So what’s on this month?
Three planets Venus, Jupiter and Mars are glowing beacons in the evening sky this month. With the main event being comet C/2022 E3 ZTF as it may reach naked eye brightness this month. Several members have already posted some amazing images of this comet on the societies Facebook group link : https://www.facebook.com/groups/yorkastro
Looking at the constellations Orion is still high in the sky whilst Leo and Bootes are rising in the East, more of those later.
|2nd||Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF 5° southeast of open cluster collinder 464|
|3rd||Moon near Castor and Pollux|
|5th||Full Moon (occurs at apogee)|
|6th||Moon near Regulus|
|9th||Deep Sky night as the Moon is out of the way|
|10th||Moon near Spica|
|11th||Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF near Mars|
|13th||Last Quarter Moon|
|15th||Moon near Antares. Venus near Neptune|
|22nd||Moon between Venus and Jupiter|
|26th||Moon near Pleiades and Aldebaren|
|27th||First Quarter Moon near Mars and Aldebaren|
Looking South on the 14th at 22:00
Looking North on the 14th at 22:00
The two charts above show all DSOs of magnitude 6.0 or brighter, the first being the
whole sky and the second a 100° span centred on the zenith. They are both taken from
SkyViewCafe.com and correct for the 9th of the month. For a clickable list of Messier objects with images, use the Wikipedia link.
The sun is not as active as last month with the current sunspot number being 65. Though a number of recent CME events have caused geomagnetic storms with visible aurorae at high latitudes. There may be CME on the way as a number of mass ejections have taken place over te last few days.
Locally one of the best places to go is apparently Bempton cliffs as you can get a good Northerly view point. Or Whitby habour at the end of the pier is also a good location.
For more info on the sun and solar weather look here : –
The 2nd full Moon of 2023 is the Snow Moon.
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 (send us a postcard);
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
A full lunar calendar can be found here :-
Mercury is a low morning object this month and with it’s altitude dropping it will be hard to see.
The bright Venus (magnitude -3.9) shines low above the southwestern horizon in the evening, setting around 8pm. It will be located in the constellation Aquarius first and then move to Pisces
Mars can be found among the stars of Taurus – to the left of the Pleiades – and sets about 3.30 am. At magnitude +0.1, the Red Planet is a little brighter than the constellation’s principal star, the red giant Aldebaran. The Moon is nearby on 27 February.
Jupiter is visible after sunset in the southwest, in the constellation Pisces. The Moon will pass by on the 22nd when Venus will also be in close proximity.
Saturn is too close to the Sun to be a good target for observation. It will reappear as a morning planet in March.
Becoming an evening planet as the month progresses.
There are no noticeable meteor showers visible in the Northern Hemisphere in February. However, it’s still worth going outside, especially during the New Moon period. Sporadic meteors (not associated with a particular meteor shower) can be seen anytime!
In early February, the obvious choice is comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). The comet reaches its brightest on February 1 (about magnitude 5) — look for it in the constellation Camelopardalis.
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.
Deep Sky (DSO’s)
Some DSO’s for you to target this month. Photo’s please to our Facebook group!
NGC 2023 is a reflection nebula located in the constellation Orion. It is illuminated by a hot, massive star and is visible as a faint, hazy cloud of gas and dust. The nebula is relatively small, so a telescope with a moderate aperture is required to observe it. The gas and dust within the nebula reflect light from the nearby star, creating a beautiful and intricate pattern of blue and red hues. NGC 2023 is often overlooked due to its proximity to the bright and well-known Orion Nebula (M42), but it is a fascinating deep sky object in its own right and well worth seeking out for amateur astronomers.
De Mairan’s Nebula is part of the larger Orion Nebula (M42),, a famous emission-reflection nebula located just under Orions Belt. M43 is separated from the main nebula by a large, dark dust lane. Both nebulae are part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a large group of emission and reflection nebulae, dark clouds, and newly formed stars occupying several degrees of the sky. The complex is one of the most active star-forming regions visible in the sky.
NGC 5466 is a globular cluster located in the constellation Boötes. It is one of the faintest and most remote globular clusters known and is located approximately 45,000 light-years from the Earth.
Globular clusters are compact, spherical collections of stars that orbit around a galactic center. NGC 5466 is estimated to have a diameter of around 100 light-years and is thought to contain hundreds of thousands of stars. Despite its distance, the cluster is visible to the naked eye under dark skies and can be easily observed through a pair of binoculars or a small telescope.
NGC 5248 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Boötes. It is approximately 47 million light-years from Earth and is one of the brightest galaxies in its neighborhood.
NGC 5248 is a particularly interesting target for astronomers because of its proximity to Earth and the relatively low amount of dust and gas in its disk, which makes it easier to study than many other galaxies. Astronomers have used NGC 5248 to study a wide range of phenomena, including star formation, the dynamics of barred spiral galaxies, and the distribution of dark matter.
NGC 5676 is a spiral galaxy located in the constellation Boötes. It is estimated to be about 85 million light-years away from Earth and is part of a group of galaxies known as the NGC 5670 group.
ISS and other orbiting bits
Normally I’d list the dates but the site only displays the first few dates in Feb at the moment so head over during the month as their site is updated.
For a live view of what’s passing over head try https://www.heavens-above.com/skyview/?lat=0&lng=0&cul=en#/livesky
and of course the sky at night magazine!