February Night-Sky Guide 2020
The night-sky in February has lots of objects for us to enjoy. Many well-known constellations are in their prime such as Orion, Taurus, Gemini, Cepheus and Andromeda. Let's dive in a little deeper and explore a target list for you to aim for as well as developing your knowledge of the night-sky.
M41 is an open-cluster in Canis Major. Over 2000 light years away, this object can be enjoyed with binoculars or a small telescope and contains about 100 stars.
NGC2244 sits at the centre of the Rosette nebula. The open-cluster contains lots of hot, young stars known as the Rosette cluster. The nebula itself is best enjoyed through astrophotography however dark enough sites and large enough aperture will help you enjoy this object visually - although a very widefield view is required as the nebula measures over 1 degree across.
M36, M37 and M38 are bright open clusters all within the Auriga constellation.
M44 known as the Beehive cluster is one of the closest open clusters to our solar system. In 2012, two planets were discovered orbiting two separate stars in the Beehive cluster. These were the first planets discovered to be orbiting a star like earths Sun that were situated in stellar clusters.
The Orion Nebula (M42) is a fantastic object to enjoy. It is one of the brightest nebula in the sky as well as one of the closest to earth. M42 is visible to the naked eye as a hazy patch surrounding Theta Orionis, the middle star in the Sword of Orion, just south of Orion's Belt.
M45 or Pleiades are also known as the seven sisters. To the unaided eye they appear as a tightly packed cluster in the sky but it actually contains hundreds of stars including some surrounded by swirls of nebulosity. The car manufacturer Subaru basis its name and logo on this system as this constellation is referred to as Subaru in Japan. Take a look at their company logo closely, you'll see the stars!
Sunday 2nd Feb - Moon at First Quarter
Sunday 9th Feb - Full Moon
Saturday 15th Feb - Moon at Last Quarter
Sunday 23rd Feb - New Moon
Don't forget to check out our stargazing calendar where you can add events directly to your own calendar to get reminders. Here is a link https://www.stargazinguk.co.uk/stargazing-calendar
It's possible to see 5 Planets unaided in one night during February. After sunset you can see Mercury and Venus setting in the West and the following morning Mars, Jupiter and Saturn to the East before sunrise.
To find your way around the sky, use Celestron's free app. You can download the app to your smartphone or tablet here: https://www.celestron.com/pages/skyportal-mobile-app
Enjoy the night sky this February! Share your pictures with us on social media. Everyone is also welcome to join our own Facebook group to see other peoples adventures and share advice. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/StargazingUK/