What’s Up: NASA Skywatching Tips for February 2024
POT shared his top tips for what to watch in the skies in the coming weeks.
In a video (above) released this week, the space agency notes that the next few days will be the last chance to see Venus in the morning sky before it reappears as an evening planet in July. Of particular interest is the morning of February 6 (just at the moment when the sky begins to clear), when you can enjoy the spectacle of Venus appearing near the thin crescent Moon.
On the night of Valentine’s Day, NASA suggests looking for the crescent moon near Jupiter, high in the southwest after sunset. “They are just a fingertip away in the sky, meaning most binoculars will show them in the same field of view,” the space agency says.
Return to Heaven this month Mars, whose last nightly performances ended in September. He disappeared behind the sun for a while, but has returned and is beginning to be visible in the predawn sky.
“In February it’s quite low and not very bright, but you can see it shining and growing earlier and earlier in the coming months,” NASA explains. “Those with an unobstructed view of the southeastern horizon can expect a close approach between Mars and Venus as the pair rises in the last week of February.”
This month also provides an opportunity for those with binoculars or a telescope to identify Messier 81 (M81), a spiral galaxy similar to our Milky Way but slightly smaller.
Also known as the Bode Galaxy, it is located approximately 11.8 million light years away, so if you can observe it, keep in mind that the photons of light reaching your eyes have traveled through space for over 11 million years to reach you . .
With basic observing equipment, M81 will appear as a faint speck of light, but with more powerful instruments you will be able to make out its bright core and spiral arms.
If you need help identifying planets and stars, download one of these great astronomy apps to speed up the process. And if you’re interested in taking your stargazing hobby to the next level and trying out astrophotography, perhaps starting with Venus and Mars this month, check out these telescopes that include this guy’s imaging feature.