StarGazing in February 2012

Daybreak at Gale Crater
Gale is the crater with a mound inside it near the center of the image.
NASA has selected Gale as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Every month, Jane Houston Jones guides us through the sky in the What’s Up videos. We’ve made a list for you using the video so that you can be sure to see February’s stargazing highlights. Consider becoming a club member to benefit from the camaraderie of being in a astronomy club, sharing information, borrowing equipment, and learn or perfect your use of binoculars and telescopes.

Your StarGazing Shortlist

Venus and Jupiter Venus will set around 9:00 pm and Jupiter around 11:00 pm. Look west to spot these beauties.

Mars - At the beginning of the month Mars rises at 9:00 pm (look east) and just after sunset by the end of the month. It’s wonderful to imagine Curiosity, the Mars Rover, on its way to the Red Planet while observing Mars.

Saturn - Saturn rises in the east around midnight and by the end of the month around 10:00 pm. With a telescope, you’ll be able to see Saturn’s Moon Titan, and possibly Rhea, Dione, and Tethys. Also try to spot Iapatus.

Comet Levy & Comet Garradd - Look for Comet Levy, visible after sunset, below constellations Orion and Lepus at the beginning of the month. Towards then end of the month it’ll be near the tail of Canis Major. Try to spot this comet in dark skies with a telescope. Look for Comet Garradd near Hercules early in the month and towards the end of the month, look for it near Draco. You might be able to see it with your eyes, but try to use binoculars, and a telescope is even better. 

Watch What’s Up for February 2012? Mars gets closer and two comets delight viewers! for charts and Jane’s explanation of the stargazing targets that are on the StarGazing Shortlist.

Read the February 2012 Guide to the Five Visible Planets by EarthSky for more details and sky charts. EarthSky is our stargazing partner and we feature their easy-to-read charts on our Night Sky Planner, Facebook page, and Twitter. 

You may also enjoy Tonight’s Sky: Highlights of the February Sky by the HubbleSite. This month, they give you wonderful details about observing Orion.  

Join our vibrant stargazing community!
Find a club in your area and find star parties and astronomy clubs on your iPhone using Go StarGaze. Join the NASA Night Sky Network stargazing community on Facebook and Twitter for daily sky charts.

Clear skies and happy stargazing!

The NASA Night Sky Network is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in cooperation with NASA.