Skywatcher’s Guide: This Week’s Sky 02/07-02/13

Look-out for Uranus, Venus, Jupiter, and much more in this week’s sky. Happy skywatching!

Venus and Jupiter shine with Mars in this photo from 1991. This week the two planets will draw close together. Photo courtesy of Alan Dyer.

Sunday, February 7th:

  • Moon is in the waning crescent phase, meaning as days go by less and less of its surface will be illuminated by the Sun until the New Moon arrives. Today, 21% of the Moon is visible to us.
  • Mercury is in inferior conjunction at 9 A.M. EST. The planet will lie exactly between Earth and the Sun, appearing in the sky right before dawn this week.
  • Comet 141P/Machholz 2 is observable at approximately magnitude 10.5. Tonight it is 0.62 astronomical units (0.62 times the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) away. In order to see 141P/Machholz 2, observers need a large telescope of around 8 inches or more. Look about 1.6 degrees south-southeast of the magnitude 4.3 star 10 Tauri.

Monday, February 8th:

  • The waning crescent Moon is at 12% illumination. An hour or two before sunrise is the best time to see this phase of the lunar cycle.

Tuesday, February 9th:

  • The waning crescent Moon is at 6% illumination. During the this phase, the moon is approaching closer to the Sun as viewed from Earth.
  • Uranus is an easy skywatcher’s target at a magnitude 5.8, especially without moonlight interference. Grab a pair of binoculars and look 10.5 degrees southwest of Mars.

Wednesday, February 10th:

Thursday, February 11th:

  • The Moon exits the waning crescent phase and becomes a New Moon, with 0% illumination. During the New Moon phase, the Moon is too close to the Sun in the sky to be visible from Earth. Don’t worry, the Moon doesn’t disappear. The Moon alludes us because its position relative to the Sun causes no light to be reflected from the lunar surface.
  • Venus and Saturn nearly kiss at 7 A.M. EST, passing each other at a mere 0.4 degrees apart. Venus is positioned to the lower right of brighter Jupiter.

Friday, February 12th:

  • The Moon enters the waxing crescent phase and slowly reveals it’s surface again at a meek 1% illumination. The best time to view this phase is following sunset.
  • Without much moonlight, now is a great time to observe deep sky objects. Look for the constellation Orion the Hunter high in the southeast sky. Then you can check-out the Orion Nebula (M42) near the lower right (south) of the bottom star in Orion’s Belt.

Saturday, February 13th:

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