How and When to Catch the Brightest Planets on Display Throughout February

Illustration for article titled How and When to Catch the Brightest Planets on Display Throughout February

Photo: Illia Zavatski (Shutterstock)

Over the past two months we’ve been treated to some pretty amazing things in the night sky. February, on the other hand, is a little quieter—especially when it comes to planets. Of the five planets we can usually see with the naked eye (those would be Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn), really, only Mars will be relatively easy to spot this month. That’s because the other four planets will be hanging out pretty close to the sun.

But it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to see these at all. Here’s how and when to spot each one, courtesy of some tips from Joe Rao—an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, writing for Space.com.

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Mercury

Your best bet for catching Mercury will be towards the end of the month. Per Rao:

Mercury goes through inferior conjunction (passing between Earth and the sun) on Feb. 8. It then moves out into the morning sky, possibly becoming visible during the final week of February, very low in the east-southeast, joining two other planets also emerging from out of the glare of the rising sun: Saturn and Jupiter.

Venus

According to Rao, we may have missed our chance at seeing Venus in February, but it’ll be back:

Venus can be glimpsed only for the first few days of the month very low above the east-southeastern horizon for just a short while before sunrise. But it soon disappears into the sun’s glare on its way to superior conjunction on March 26th.

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Mars

Not only will Mars be visible, but we won’t have to stay up too late to see it, Rao says:

Mars, the lone planet during February that is easily visible, is near the meridian at sundown, remaining in view until after midnight. Crossing from Aries into Taurus on the 23rd, this planet slowly fades in magnitude from +0.5 to +0.9.

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Jupiter

Wait until the middle of the month to catch a glimpse at Jupiter, Rao notes:

Jupiter begins the month too near to the sun to be visible. Feb. 14, “might” be the morning to try for your first morning view of it; it begins to emerge into view very low near the east-southeast horizon, at least a half hour before sunrise.

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Saturn

Spotting Saturn with take some patience too, according to Rao:

Saturn like Jupiter starts February hidden in the glare of the sun. During the latter half of the month, it begins to slowly emerge into view against the dawn twilight.

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Happy planet hunting!

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