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Red Dirt Astronomy: Skies & Space for February

February 1, 2023

Mercury – Low in the east before sunrise, Mercury will be a fairly bright object, gradually brightening throughout the month. On the 18th, the thin waning, crescent moon will be just south of the planet.
Venus- Ascending in the west during the evening, the bright planet will be very close to Neptune on the 15th. With a 12 magnitude difference between the two planets, only a telescope will be able to reveal the presence of the, gas giant, Neptune. The waxing crescent moon will be near Venus on 22nd.
Mars – The Red Planet is bright in Taurus and well placed in the sky at sunset this month. Throughout the month, it’s brightness will fade as the planet moves farther and farther away from Earth in its orbit of the sun. An observer can easily compare the brightness of the planet night to night by comparing it’s brightness to the stars Betelgeuse in Orion and Aldebaran in Taurus, an interesting exercise which provides evidence of the motion of Mars.
Jupiter – Passing from Pisces into Cetus, Jupiter will appear to be overtaken by Venus as the month progresses. On the 22nd, the moon will join the view of Venus and Jupiter.
Saturn- The ringed planet is too close to the sun for observation this month.
Uranus- In Aries, Uranus is visible in the evening sky visited by the waxing crescent moon on the 25th.
Neptune- Neptune is close to the setting sun making observation difficult this month.

Sky & Space Anniversary Events for February 2023
Feb. 1: Space Shuttle Cloumbia broke up on re-entry to Earth (2003)
Feb. 2: Astronaut Eileen Collins became the first female Shuttle Pilot (1995)
Feb. 3: Astronaut Bruce McCandless becomes first man to take an untethered space walk (1984)
Feb. 5: Full Moon
Feb. 12: NEAR landed on the surface of Eros (2001)
Feb. 13: Last Quarter Moon
Feb. 14: Antares, in Scorpio, is just south of the Moon
Feb. 15: Venus is close to Neptune
Feb. 16: Saturn in conjunction with the sun (not visible)
Feb. 20: New Moon
Feb. 21: Neptune north of the Moon
Feb. 22: Venus north of the Moon
Feb. 22: Jupiter north of the Moon
Feb. 25: Uranus south of the Moon
Feb. 27: First Quarter Moon
Feb. 28: Mars south of the Moon