BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The only prominent planet in the evening sky of February will be Mars, but three bright planets will adorn the morning sky.
Mars will appear fairly high in the southwest after evening twilight fades, and it will set around 11 p.m. local time. Sky-watchers will have an unusual opportunity to spot the outer planet Uranus in midmonth when Mars and Uranus appear near each other. Binoculars may be needed when the two are closest on Feb. 12, with blue-green Uranus just 1 degree south-southeast of red-orange Mars.
Jupiter will rise in the southeast around 4 a.m. Feb. 1 and more than an hour earlier by month’s end. It will become larger and brighter as the month passes. Jupiter’s four Galilean moons can be seen with any telescope, providing a constantly changing display as they orbit the planet.
Venus will be the next planet to appear at the start of the month, clearing the horizon a half hour after Jupiter. By month’s end it will rise two hours earlier. On Feb. 18, Venus and Saturn will be just 1 degree apart in the southeastern sky, with brilliant white Venus blazing 80 times brighter than yellow Saturn.
Saturn will rise around 5:30 a.m. local time at the start of February. By the end of the month, it will appear an hour earlier, and it will be 10 degrees high in the southeast as morning twilight begins. Its famous rings will be tilted 24 degrees to our line of sight.
Mercury will make its best appearance of the year late in the month. At its highest on Feb. 26 it will stand 11 degrees above the western horizon a half-hour after sunset.
The moon will be new on Feb. 4, at first quarter on Feb. 12, full on Feb. 19 and at third quarter on Feb. 26.