Our early evening parade of planets ends his month when we say goodbye to Saturn as it heads to its conjunction with the sun on the 16th. For the first few days of this month, you might be able to spot the ringed planet low near the west-southwest horizon before it disappears into the twilight afterglow of the sun.

Venus and Jupiter are also in the early evening sky near the western horizon. While Jupiter, at magnitude -2.1, continues to descend toward the horizon, Venus, at magnitude -3.9 continues to ascend in the western evening sky.

Mars will continue being easily visible and almost directly overhead as you look to the south. This time, for most of us in the northern hemisphere, the moon will come close but will wind up not occulting Mars unless you happen to be in Scandinavia or Iceland. Nevertheless, it will be a close encounter with the moon passing less than one degree above Mars around 1 a.m. on the 28th.

Mercury, having passed conjunction with the Sun, reappears in the early morning sky on the eastern horizon and will be naked-eye visible just before dawn from the 1st through the 13th. A good set of binoculars should help you find Mercury in the twilight before sunrise.

The moon will be full on the 5th, last quarter on the 13th, new on the 20th, and first quarter on the 27th. Looking to the western horizon on the 21st, about one hour after sunset, the new crescent moon will be below Venus. On the following night, the 22nd, again about one hour after sunset, the crescent moon will be one degree to the left of Jupiter. Looking south on the 27th, almost directly overhead, the first quarter moon will be just to the right of Mars.

There will not be a first Saturday star party at the Etscorn Campus Observatory this month.


Clear Skies!

Jon Spargo

New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

February 2023

Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club