The night sky in February 2015

posted 2 Feb 2015, 03:19 by Pete Collins
by Anne Holt

Sunset  Feb 1st:   1651      Feb 28th:  1744

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy reached perihelion on 30 January. It will be fading through February as it begins its journey away from the Sun but should remain an easy binocular object as it heads north through Andromeda and western Perseus.

Constellations

Orion
and Taurus are now above the horizon as the sky darkens but start to set at around 2am at the start of February and soon after midnight by the end of the month.
Gemini and Auriga are still prominemt, remaining above the horizon until the early hours.
Leo, the signpost constellation of Spring, is now high in the sky for most of the night and Bootes, with it's bright red start Arcturus is rising soon after 11, and around 9 at month end.
In the early part of the evening the Plough is low in the North East standing on its 'handle', and Cassiopeia high in the North West as darkness falls.
By month end, the Summer Triangle will have risen soon after 3am - Summer already?  Someone better tell the weather.

Planets

Venus, at mag minus 3.8 is setting later and later during the month, almost 3 hours after the sun at month end. It is unmistakeable low in the west.  On Feb 1st it is less than 1 degree from Neptune and on 21st and 22nd about half a degree from Mars.

Jupiter, now in Cancer, is at mag minus 2.5. It dominates the night sky after Venus has set.  It is visible all night, reaching opposition on 6th.

Mars, in Pisces is at mag 1.3,  not at its best this month being low in the South West.

Uranus, also in Pisces, is at mag 5.9.  On 21st it will be 2 degrees from the crescent Moon, low in the western sky at about 8pm.

Neptune is in Aquarius, mag 8.  Very low in the south west in early Feb and not visible later in the month as it approaches conjunction on 24th.

Saturn,  in Scorpio, mag 0.7.  A morning object, rising at around 2am, it reaches its highest point in the sky before dawn at the beginning of the month but is still very low.  2-5 degrees west of the crescent Moon at 3.30am on 13th. 

Mercury, In Capricorn, mag 0.2.  Another morning 'star' but very difficult to spot in the dawn sky.  Greatest Western elongation on 24th but still rising only an hour before the sun. 

Meteor showers

There is not much in the way of meteor showers in February. 

The Delta Leonids, Feb 5th to March 19th,  peak Feb 22nd:  ZHR 5  Average magnitude around 3.

If you happen to be visiting the Southern hemisphere in early February, you might just see a few alpha Centaurids (peak Feb 8th) or theta Centaurids (peak Feb 10th).  Neither very active, ZHR 3.
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