The highlight of February is the Comet C/2022 E3 which arrives close enough to Earth to see, barely. The comet changes position from night to night. It will move from the area around the North Star, Polaris, to the Zodiac constellation of “Taurus the Bull,” which is straight up after dark.
On Friday, February 10, make an effort to look up with binoculars at the bright red planet Mars, which is overhead. There you will see the comet and Mars appearing very near each other. The comet looks like a fuzz ball at this time. Griffith Observatory will have telescopes looking at the comet each night until 10 pm, except on Mondays when it’s closed.
Mark your calendar on Wednesday, February 22, when a great naked-eye event comes our way. The planets Venus and Jupiter will appear to be very close to each other in the early night sky. The planets are dazzling in brightness. Also at the same time the beautiful, thin crescent Moon will be between the two planets making this a special event. Tell your friends about this one!
The February night sky is dominated by the giant constellation Orion in the south. Two of the brightest stars are in this formation. The famous Betelgeuse is a red star. Below is a super bright blue star named Rigel. Below Orion is Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. All three are magnificent.
Above the constellation Orion is the star formation “Taurus the Bull” where the comet is. Notice two bright red objects. The first is the red giant star Aldebaran, which is the fourteenth brightest star visible. Nearby is another red object which is the planet Mars. Near Mars is the famous star cluster, the Pleiades. This group of seven stars are the seven sisters of the Greek God Atlas. If you have binoculars you will be able to see many more stars. In Japan, this star cluster is known as “Subaru” and its image is seen on the company’s car logo.
FUN FACT: In ancient texts dating back to 3300 BCE, the constellation “Taurus” is one of the oldest documented star patterns mentioned.
The full Moon, on February 5, was known by the Native American tribes as the “Hunger Moon” since bad weather and heavy snowstorms made hunting difficult. This Moon is the smallest full Moon of 2023.
NASA News: The Mars helicopter Rover made its 41st flight. It flew over an ancient crater on Mars looking for interesting objects.
Vandenberg Space Force Base is going to launch two rockets on February 27 at the same time! This is quite unusual. Look northwest at 4 pm.
When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is a Wealth Advisor with LPL Financial in Woodland Hills.
If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.