SKY GUIDE: This map represents the night sky as it appears over Maine during February. The stars are shown as they appear at 10:30 p.m. early in the month, at 9:30 p.m. at midmonth, and at 8:30 p.m. at month’s end. Mars and Uranus are shown at their midmonth positions. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so that the direction you are facing is at the bottom. Sky Chart prepared by Seth Lockman

The month of February is named after the Latin word “februum” which means purification. Groundhog Day is Feb. 2, which also marks the half way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Just like there are four seasons, there are also four cross quarter days marking the halfway points of our four seasons. The one this month is also known as Candlemas in the Christian tradition and as Imbolc in the Celtic tradition.

There will be many great highlights this month that will be well worth braving any cold that we may get to go outside and enjoy them and learn more about how our amazing solar system and universe really work from a first-hand perspective once you better understand what is happening. These include one last chance to see all seven of our planets in the sky on the first of this month, six of them in the evening and Mercury in the morning. Just like Venus passed very close to Saturn last month, it will pass very close to Jupiter on the last day of this month. Then Jupiter will continue to sink even as Venus continues to climb higher until summer starts.

Watch for an even closer conjunction of Venus and Neptune in Aquarius on Valentine’s Day. The pair will be only half a degree apart, which is the width of the full moon. You will need a good pair of binoculars to see Neptune, since it is nearly 12 magnitudes or about 40,000 times fainter than brilliant Venus. At a distance of 30.8 astronomical units, it takes light four hours to reach us from this lonely last outpost for a planet in our solar system. The light from Venus will reach us in just 12 minutes. Then there will be two asteroids at their best, Ceres and Pallas. There will be not one, but three comets visible this month with binoculars, the brightest of which, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will pass very close to Mars in Taurus on Feb. 10, and it may even become visible without binoculars. The other two comets are another ZTF comet (C/2020V2), passing through Cassiopeia and Perseus not far from the first ZTF comet, and then Comet 96P/Machholz low in the morning sky just below the Summer Triangle and Aquila the Eagle. After that we can expect five more fairly good comets, magnitude 10 or better, for the rest of this year.

The last remaining highlight this month, other than some more close conjunctions of the moon with some of our planets, will be the zodiacal light. Look for it starting around the middle of this month with no moonlight to interfere with its subtle glow. Look for a cone-shaped glow aligned with the ecliptic low on the western horizon about an hour after sunset. This faint light is caused by sunlight reflecting off solar system debris left by ancient comets in the ecliptic plane of our solar system. So even though there will be no more meteor showers until the April 22 Lyrids, which always fall on Earth Day, you can now see the combined effect of trillions of tiny pieces of all of the comets that have ever passed near the earth, at least within the last few thousand years.

Watch Venus and Jupiter carefully all month as the much faster moving Venus is rapidly catching up with the king of the planets at a rate of exactly one degree per day. They begin 29 degrees apart and they will be just one degree apart in Pisces the Fish on the last day of this month low in the western evening sky about an hour after sunset.

Moving from west to east, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars will all be strung across our evening sky like a celestial necklace of planetary pearls all month long. Notice that Mars is moving in its normal prograde or eastward motion in Taurus again and that is getting a little fainter and smaller and less orange each evening. It is about zero magnitude now and the same distance from us as our sun, just over 8 minutes away at the speed of light.


We will lose Saturn in our evening sky after the first of this month. Then the ringed planet will reappear in our morning sky next month.

The largest asteroid Ceres will be at its best on Feb. 8 and the second largest asteroid, Pallas, will be at its best in Canis Major on Feb. 12. Pallas will reach 7.7 magnitude and will pass close to Sirius, the brightest star in our sky at minus 1.4 magnitude on Feb. 25. That is about 9 magnitudes or 4,000 times brighter than Pallas, which is about 325 miles across.


Feb. 3: The waxing gibbous moon forms a neat line with Castor and Pollux in Gemini tonight.

Feb. 4: Clyde Tombaugh was born in 1906. He would discover Pluto on Feb. 18, 1930. It was known as a full-fledged planet for 76 years until it was reclassified as an icy dwarf in 2006.

Feb. 5: Full moon is at 1:29 p.m.


Feb. 8: Dwarf planet Ceres is stationary. Jules Verne was born in 1828.

Feb. 10: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) passes close to Mars in Taurus tonight.

Feb. 13: Last quarter moon is at 11:01 a.m.

Feb. 14: Venus and Neptune will be only half a degree apart in Aquarius tonight.

Feb. 15: Galileo was born in 1564. He would improve the telescope in 1609 and he soon proved that the earth is not the center of our solar system or the universe.

Feb. 19: Nicolaus Copernicus was born in 1473. He developed the heliocentric model of the solar system which was later proven by Galileo.


Feb. 20: New moon is at 2:06 a.m.

Feb. 21: The slender waxing crescent moon will pass close to Venus and Jupiter tonight and the next night.

Feb. 23: Supernova 1987a was discovered by Ian Shelton in 1987.

Feb. 26: The moon passes between the Pleiades and the Hyades in Taurus tonight. Jupiter and Venus are less than 3 degrees apart low in the western sky this tonight.

Feb. 27: First quarter moon is at 3:06 am. The moon passes one degree north of Mars tonight.

Feb. 28: Jupiter and Venus are only one degree apart shortly after sunset in the western evening sky.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England

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