The Moon will display a great show this month with its apparent conjunctions with different Constellations, Star Clusters and Mars throughout February. 

A part from Mars, Planets will remain difficult to observe (unless you have a true horizon and/or live in the Southern Hemisphere: enjoy Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mercury in the early morning before sunrise).

The newly found Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) will not be visible yet (it will reach perihelion in early January 2022 so we’ll have to wait till Nov/Dec 2021 in order to be able to observe it). 

C/2021 A1 (Leonard): Physical parameters (6.2.2021). Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory



But we have an exciting event coming up on 18 February: The Perseverance Rover Landing at Jezero Crater on Planet Mars (see below)! 

I hope you’ll find something interesting among my February astronomical objects picks! As always: enjoy the journey and please come back for the March 2021 issue or subscribe to the monthly newsletter at the end of this page.
Keep well!

Best wishes,
Isa

Perseverance Rover Landing on 18 February 2021

The Perseverance Rover touch down at Jezero Crater on Planet Mars is scheduled for 18 February 2021 at approx. 12:30 p.m. PST/3:30 p.m. EST/9:30 p.m. CET). NASA TV broadcast starts at 11:15 a.m. PST/2:15 p.m. EST/8:15 CET. Watch Online here.

Update on Perseverance Rover touch down on Planet Mars, 18 February 2021

This is the first high-resolution, color image to be sent back by the Hazard Cameras (Hazcams) on the underside of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover after its landing on Feb. 18, 2021. Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

February 19, 2021: This high-resolution image shows one of the six wheels aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, which landed on Feb. 18, 2021. The image was taken by one of Perseverance’s color Hazard Cameras (Hazcams). Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

February 19, 2021: The descent stage holding NASA’s Perseverance rover can be seen falling through the Martian atmosphere, its parachute trailing behind, in this image taken on Feb. 18, 2021, by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The ancient river delta, which is the target of the Perseverance mission, can be seen entering Jezero Crater from the left. Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

February 19, 2021: This high-resolution still image is part of a video taken by several cameras as NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. A camera aboard the descent stage captured this shot. Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Moon phases

PhaseDate
Last Quarter 4 February 
New Moon11 February
First Quarter19 February
Full Moon27 February
Moon phases February 2021

Moon conjunctions with bright
stars (<5 mag.), Planets and Star Clusters

Weather permitting, look for the Moon displaying a great show especially on the following nights:

  • 3 February
    Waning Gibbous Moon (approx. 69% illuminated) will appear in the Constellation of Virgo close to Spica (α Virginis). 
  • 6 February
    Early morning hours (check around 5 a.m. CET in the SE) the Waning Crescent Moon (approx. 33% illuminated/23.7 days old will appear close to Antares (Alpha Scorpii) in the Constellation of Scorpius.
  • 18 February
    Waxing Crescent Moon (approx. 40% illuminated/6.5 days old) will appear close to Planet Mars.
  • 19/20 February
    Another chance to see the Moon appear close to Mars, The Pleiades and Aledbaran (Alpha Tauri)
  • 24 February
    Waxing Gibbous Moon appears close to the Beehive Cluster (Praesepe, M44) in the Constellation of Cancer as well as Giant Star Pollux (β Geminorum).
The Moon on 18/19 February – Image credit: Screenshot Stellarium App

Planets

Mars continues to be visible in the night sky. Other planets such as Jupiter, Saturn and Venus will be difficult to observe, especially if you don’t have a true horizon. In Switzerland, mine is obscured by the Alps. If you live by the sea (and/or in the Southern Hemisphere) and have a clear view E/SE, chances are, you’ll be able to observe Jupiter starting 15 February (look E/SE) around 20-30’ before sunrise. Mercury and Saturn: will appear above the horizon (E/SE) around morning twilight.

Meteor shower

Nothing special to expect in February. Next show will be the Lyrids starting around 16 April and lasting till 30 April 2021.

Galaxies

Look for the Leo Triplet (M66 Group) in the Constellation of Leo – the Constellation now appears earlier in the evening than last month. The Constellation of Ursa Major hosts a number of Galaxies so look out for Little Pin Wheel Galaxy or Tiger’s Eye Galaxy. Others: Andromeda Galaxy (M31) (mag. 3.57). Triangulum Galaxy (M33) (mag. 5.87). You’ll need at least binoculars to observe them. 

Astronomy Astrophotography Takahashi FSQ-85EDX Galaxies
Leo Triplet – M65 M66 and NGC 3628

Star clusters and Deep Sky objects

The Pleiades will continue to be visible in February. Also watch out for the Constellation of Cassiopeia that hosts lots of Star Clusters (and the Starbust Galaxy (mag. 9.5)), the Hyades (in the Constellation of Taurus). Other beauties: Little Beehive Cluster (M41) in Canis Major as well as Coma Star Cluster in the Constellation of Coma Berenices.

Takahashi FSQ-85EDX Star Cluster Astronomy Astrophotography
Watch out for Double Cluster h Persei & χ Persei in the constellation of Perseus

Bright stars

There are a number of bright stars, including variable & double stars that continue to be observable in February. Watch out for: Binary star Sirius (α CMa) in the constellation of Canis Major, as well as (no binoculars needed to observe them):

Star nameConstellation
Aldebaran (α Tauri)Taurus
Altair (α Aquilae)Aquila
Bellatrix (γ Orionis)Orion
Betelgeuse (α Orionis)Orion
Capella (α Aurigae)Auriga
Caph (β Cassiopeiae)Cassiopeia
Daneb (α Cyg)Cygnus
Fomalhaut (α Piscis Austrin)Piscis Austrinus
Markab (α Pegasi)Pegasus
Mirfak (α Persei)Perseus
Pollux (β Geminorum)Gemini
Rigel (β Orionis)Orion
Vega (α Lyrae)Lyra
Selection of bright stars visible in February 2021 (northern hemisphere)

Bright nebulae

DesignationTypeConstellationMag.
Great Orion Nebula (M42)Diffuse nebulaOrion4.56
Pleiades (M45)Open star cluster with reflection nebulaeTaurus1.36
13th Pearl Nebula (NGC 1999)Reflection nebula (provided by variable star V380 Orionis)Orion9.30
Elephant’s Trunk Nebula (IC 1396)Emission nebulaCepheus3.66
Heart Nebula (IC 1805/Sh-2-190)Emission nebulaCassiopeia6.64
Rosette Nebula (NGC 2238/Caldwell 49)Emission nebulaMonoceros9.61
The Wizard Nebula (NGC 7380)Open cluster with emission nebulaCepheus7.20

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