All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book Nightscenes 2020 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores!
Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire. All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.
Solar System quick summary
For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.
Mercury is viewable until just after mid month with its best evening apparition of the year. Venus also lies in the evening skies passing through Pisces and is well placed to view in the evenings. Uranus and minor planet Vesta also remain visible in binoculars in the evenings. Mars is a morning planet and on the 18th lies between M8 and M20 with the moon to its right that morning. Jupiter improves in the morning twilight and Saturn creeps out of the solar glare towards the end of the month as Mars steadily gets closer to them with all three now in Sagittarius. Neptune and Mercury become lost in the bright evening twilight after mid month. There are no bright meteor showers in February.
Special event: Keep an eye on the star Betelgeuse, bright orange top left hand star of Orion, From Oct to January it dimmed, part of its variable nature and is at its dimmest for at least 25 years and possibly 50 years. So do take a look at Orion when it is clear and carefully note its brightness compared with Aldebaran, Rigel, Bellatrix and the belt stars. See the ‘Seasonal Deep Sky’ page for more information about Orion.
The innermost planet puts on its best appearance for the evening skies for the year and lies in the evening twilight from January 26th to February 19th. The chart shows it every two days at approximately ½ hour after sunset, brightest at the start of its evening apparitions and fading towards the end so better to get it early rather than later. It looks just like a star but careful observation over a few nights will show it is steadily moving and drifts over towards the West from the WSW. It is best to have a good clear uncluttered horizon so if you can go to a site that has a good western view that will give you the best advantage. Note that the Crescent Moon for Jan 26th is shown but its size is greatly exaggerated for clarity on the chart. Neptune steadily descends into the bright evening twilight but will be quite difficult in the bright sky but if you have binoculars you may want to have a go at it. For both Mercury and Neptune, ensure the sun is below the horizon when you look out for them.
Although difficult, Neptune slides north of Phi Aquarii on the 10th & 11th but it is best to allow the sky to darken before they both set to stand a chance of viewing this event with a small telescope.
Meanwhile you should notice a much brighter ‘star’ to the upper left of Mercury and this is the other inner planet, Venus. The chart here shows it and Mercury on February 1st ~ ¾ hr after sunset. Venus moves up and away from Mercury and remains easily visible in the evenings all month. The crescent moon lies below and to the left of Venus on the evening of the 27th for a stunning view. Venus is also closing in on the much fainter Uranus for next months conjunction.
Meanwhile, further along the ecliptic we find Uranus lies in Aries and is well placed to view with binoculars in the evening sky once twilight has ended. It is around mag 5.8 so technically naked eye from a dark site with no light pollution but 10x50 binoculars will easily show it. Uranus is stationary on the 11th and then resumes normal motion remaining viewable until early April. The chart at left shows this motion from Jan 1st to Apr 1st with a scale bar to help whilst the star HD 12479 is mag 5.9 so very similar in brightness.
Now let us turn to the morning sky and as morning twilight begins to break Jupiter emerges into view early in the month and mid month Saturn creeps out into the bright morning twilight to join it and Mars. We find Mars moving between the Messier objects of M20 and M8, the Trifid and Lagoon nebulae from the 16th to 20th. The deep sky targets will be hard against the brightening sky so it is useful to have a bright planet such as Mars to guide you. Mars lies roughly between them on the morning of Feb 18th when it is also joined by the thick crescent moon as shown above. The moon is shown 3x larger than normal. Meanwhile, on the 19th the moon lies between Mars and Jupiter then the next morning it lies between Jupiter and Saturn but will be quite low in the morning sky as you look towards the SE horizon. All three planets are shown from Feb 16th to 20th but the moon only joins them from the 18th in the view above. You will need a good uncluttered SE to SSE horizon to view them at approximately 6 to 6:30am.
Also look out for the following:
1st Moon forms shallow triangle with Vesta and Uranus (evening)
3rd Moon lies to right of Hyades and Aldebaran in Taurus (evening)
6th Moon forms triangle with Castor and Pollux in Gemini (evening)
7th Moon forms line with Castor and Pollux (evening)
9th Full Moon lies above Regulus in Leo (evening) Supermoon
10th Mercury at GEE / Moon is at Perigee and lies to right of Denebola (evening)
13th Moon forms triangle with Porrima and Spica in Virgo (morning)
15th Last Quarter Moon lies near to Alpha Librae (morning)
16th Moon lies to right of Graffias in Scorpius (morning)
17th Moon is to the upper left of Antares (morning)
27th Crescent Moon lies to lower left of Venus (evening twilight)
28th Crescent Moon lies to left of Uranus (evening twilight)
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2020
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2020
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