What Can I See in the Sky in February 2021?

As we head into the second month of 2021 and the last month of winter, we will start to see the days get noticeably longer. The Sun sets at 18:00 by the end of the month which still leaves plenty of time to get out and look at the sky without staying up late. The nights are still very cold in February though.

I try to ensure that everything in the guide is suitable for observation without equipment, but unfortunately this month is a little short on naked eye sights. The planets of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter, that featured in the night sky during the autumn and winter are now too close to the Sun to be seen easily. There is the opportunity to try and spot the very thin crescent Moon on the evening of the 12th February. On that evening try looking west after sunset and you might be able to see the Moon only 1% illuminated. This isn’t easy so if you don’t manage it that evening you can try the following evening when the Moon is still only 4% illuminated.

The spring constellations are now appearing in the sky so now is a good time to familiarise yourself with them. The best time to look will be around the middle of the month when the Moon is new.

Sun and Moon

DateSunrise (Irish Time)Sunset (Irish Time)
01/02/202108:0917:08
15/02/202107:4217:36
28/02/202107:1418:01
Sunrise and sunset times
Moon PhaseDate
Third quarter4/02/2021
New Moon11/02/2021
First quarter19/02/2021
Full Moon27/02/2021
Moon phases

Planets

Mercury

Mercury is visible in the evening sky from 1st to 5th February. To see it, look southwest about 40 mins after sunset. It is dim and therefore hard to see. From about the 14th February it will be in the morning sky but it will be dim and rises only a little before the Sun, so very hard to see.

Venus

Too close to the Sun to be easily visible.

Mars

Mars is still well placed in the February sky. It will appear as a salmon – pink coloured star and will have already risen when the sky gets dark. It will start off high in the south and move towards the west as the night goes on. It has gotten a lot dimmer than it was in the autumn and will continue to get dimmer this month. If you have a small telescope you will also notice the size of the disk is getting smaller as the days go by.

Jupiter

Too close to the Sun to be easily visible.

Saturn

Too close to the Sun to be easily visible.

Uranus

I don’t normally include Uranus in the guide. The reason for this is that it is at the very limit of what our eye can see without a telescope or binoculars. If you happen to have a pair of binoculars around the house or a small telescope, on the night of the 17th February, Uranus is positioned just above the Moon. This makes it a little easier to find. Don’t expect to see much, it is 2.9 billion km away! It will appear as a star but may look slightly green.

Stars and Constellations

Sky chart for 15th January 2021 23:00 credit: Heavens above

The above sky chart, from heavens-above.com is for 23:00 on 15/02/2021. You can click on the chart to open a new tab and bring you to Heavens Above. On this website you can generate a custom chart for the time and date you wish. The winter constellations are prominent as the night sets in, but are starting to be replaced by the spring constellations.

Visible in the west will be Orion (the hunter). Most people are somewhat familiar with this constellation and will be able to pick out Orion’s belt. You may also be able to pick out the Orion nebula just below the Orion’s belt. If you start from here and make a line using the 3 stars of the belt you can follow them down to a bright star called Sirius. Sirius is in the constellation of Cannis Major (the dog). This is actually the brightest star in the sky and is really beautiful.

If you follow the line of the belt in the other direction you will come to a red star called Aldebaran. This is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus (the bull) which has a distinctive “V” shape. Continuing along this line we come to a misty patch of stars called Pleiades or M45. This is a star forming region 1,344 lightyears away.

Above this is the constellation of Gemini (the twins), Auriga (the charioteer) and Perseus. To the northwest are Cepheus (the house), Cassiopeia (the queen), Andromeda and Pegasus (the flying horse). Andromeda is the location of the Andromeda galaxy which is the furthest object that can be seen with the naked eye. Although, you will need very dark skies to see it. Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxy are headed for a collision and will collide in an estimated 4.5 billion years.

In the west at this time of year you’ll find the constellation of Pisces (the fish) and Aquarius (the water bearer). Mars is also in this area of the sky. Over in the south and east we have the spring constellations rising. You will see Leo (the lion) and the plough is now rising higher in the sky. Taking the curve of the handle of the plough and following it toward the eastern horizon will bring you to a bright red star called Aldebaran. This is the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes. Although this constellation represents a herdsman it actually looks more like a kite. It’s always nice to see this constellation appearing. It will be high in the sky in the summer and is a sign that we are heading out of winter and into spring.

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