All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2017.

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.

February 2017

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.

Mars and Venus dominate the evening sky whilst Neptune slides into the twilight lost to view. Comet 2P/Encke brightens from mid month in the evening sky not far from Venus before plunging towards the encroaching twilight. Uranus remains visible as does much fainter Ceres whilst Vesta remains reasonably bright in Gemini. Jupiter now rises before midnight. Saturn remains a morning planet moving from Ophiuchus into Sagittarius. Mercury lies low in the bright morning twilight and difficult to view. Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova lies in the morning sky but is fading. The Moon occults Nu Piscium on the 2nd then  Mu Ceti on the 3rd and Theta1&2 Tauri on the 5th.  There is a Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon on the 11th.

Main events

Feb-ven-mn-mars-ura.jpgVenus and Mars keep ahead of the twilight and remain well placed to view during February. The Martian disk is small in a  telescope but it will make up for it in 2018. On Feb 1st the crescent Moon is to their upper left forming a straight line whilst the following evening (2nd) the moon occults Nu Piscium. All of the British Isles gets to view the occultation so begin watching from between 18:45 GMT and 19:10 for the disappearance which is on the dark limb of the moon (shown on the inset at right) and watch from just before 20:00 GMT to ~ 20:15 for the reappearance on the bright limb. Mars and Venus are at their closest on the 2nd and are around 5.4°  from each other shown by the white line joining them on the chart above. They should just fit in a binocular with a FOV of 6°.


On the 3rd the moon occults Mu Ceti (left) with disappearance on the dark limb so easier to view but they both lie low just above the horizon as  reappearance occurs. Begin looking around 23:20 GMT for the north of the British Isles and 23:30 for the south so you don't miss the disappearance. Although it will be low and close to the horizon, look out for the reappearance from about 00:15 GMT to 00:26 GMT if you have a clear horizon.


The occultation's are not over however as the moon occults Theta1&2 Tauri in the Hyades so check out the details on the occultations link above.

Meanwhile Jupiter lies in Virgo not far from Spica.  The Moon joins them as it passes through the region from the 15th to 16th. The moon lies close to Zaniah, Eta Virginis just before the onset of morning twilight on the 14th and just before midnight later that night it lies above Jupiter and Spica as they rise. The moon forms a tighter triangle with Jupiter and Spica around midnight on the morning of the 16th as shown above. On Feb 23rd Jupiter is again due north of, and in conjunction with, Spica so do look out for them.

Comets-Feb-Encke.jpgTurning back to the evening twilight and by Feb 17th Venus helps guide us to a brightening comet: 2P/Encke (left). On the 17th it should be mag 9 and brightening to mag 7 or even brighter by early March. It lies above Omega Piscium and swings above and down past the star but rapidly heads down into the encroaching evening twilight.


If you like early mornings then watch from the 19th to 21st as the waning moon lies above Scorpius, then forms a triangle with Antares and Saturn on the 20th before lying to the left of Saturn on the 21st. The view at right is set looking roughly SSE at 06:00 GMT so set your alarm! If you use a telescope then check out the moon especially on the 21st as the star cluster M23 lies directly above the moon. Visually you should be able to spot the haze of stars of the cluster against the bright moon but photographically it is a challenge, expose correctly for the moon and you wont record the stars, expose for the stars and the moon will be well overexposed - it's the same reason why you don't see the stars in the Apollo moon shot pictures!  


Meanwhile, Mars moves up through Pisces and on the 26th it lies just 35 arc minutes from Uranus as shown here at left. The conjunction is shown in orange on the top chart at the start of this main section. At their closest, note their colour, Uranus may appear greenish whilst Mars is always a reddish orange hue.

Also look out for the following:

Feb   4th Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova lies close to Delta Aquilae

Feb   7th Moon lies near Alhena (Gamma Geminorum) this evening

Feb 10th Moon lies to the right of Regulus tonight

Feb 11th Penumbral Lunar Eclipse occurs in the morning

Feb 14th Moon lies close to Zaniah, Eta Virginis in morning twilight

Feb 15th Moon rises forming a close triangle with Jupiter and Spica

Feb 28th Evening crescent Moon forms triangle with Venus & Mars

  Clear skies and happy sky watching.


The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2017 AD


Webmaster  © Paul L Money 2017