February 2017

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Date Event
Wednesday 1
Thursday 2
Friday 3
Saturday 4 First Quarter Moon
Sunday 5 Moon occults first-magnitude star Aldebaran: visible from northern Africa, southern Europe, western Middle East (beginning around 22:00 UT).
Monday 6 Moon at perigee
Tuesday 7
Wednesday 8
Thursday 9
Friday 10
Saturday 11 The Full Moon is busy tonight! First, it takes part in a penumbral lunar eclipse. Then it occults first-magnitude star Regulus: visible from Australia, New Zealand (beginning around 12:50 UT).
Sunday 12
Monday 13
Tuesday 14
Wednesday 15
Thursday 16
Friday 17
Saturday 18 Last Quarter Moon at apogee
Sunday 19
Monday 20
Tuesday 21
Wednesday 22
Thursday 23
Friday 24
Saturday 25
Sunday 26 The New Moon also has a hectic schedule this month, starting with an annular solar eclipse and finishing with an occultation of the planet Neptune.
Monday 27
Tuesday 28

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

Sun CapricornusAquarius

Mercury SagittariusCapricornusAquarius

The smallest planet in the solar system is well-placed for viewing before sunrise, especially from southern latitudes. It vanishes into the dawn sky by the end of month as it heads towards superior conjunction with the Sun in March.

Venus Pisces

The evening star is at its brightest this year on 17 February. It is best seen from the northern hemisphere where it stays quite high above the western horizon but it is much lower as observed from southern latitudes and descending quickly as the month wears on.

Mars Pisces

For nothern hemipshere observers, the red planet sets about the same time mid-evening every night but it sets earlier and earlier for those viewing it from southern reaches.

Jupiter Virgo

The largest planet in the solar system rises between mid-evening and late evening hours, depending on your latitude, and comes up a little earlier every night.

Saturn OphiuchusSagittarius

Saturn is a morning sky object, rising ever earlier ahead of the Sun.

Uranus Pisces

This green-coloured ice giant is getting increasingly difficult to see in the evening twilight as it approaches conjunction with the Sun in early April. Look for it in the west after sunset. It sets just as Jupiter rises.

Neptune Aquarius

At solar conjunction early next month, the most distant planet in the solar system is unobservable this month.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S