The Sky at Night: Royal Observatory, Greenwich

BY PATRICIA SKELTON

Although February is the shortest month of the year, it is not short of astronomical treats for us to enjoy.

Patricia Skelton, Astronomer, Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Early risers will see a busy dawn sky this month.

On February 1, those with a clear view of the south-eastern horizon will see the waning crescent moon lying near Venus.

Joining Venus in the early morning sky is the planet Jupiter which lies to the upper right of Venus.

Hanging low above the same horizon is the ringed planet Saturn. As each day passes, watch as Saturn gets higher in the sky. O

On the 18th, Saturn and Venus will be in conjunction with Saturn lying below Venus.

The new moon occurs on February 4, making this the best time of the month to observe fainter objects in our night sky.

The Beehive cluster is an open stellar cluster, pictured, containing around one thousand stars and is ideal to look at under dark sky conditions.

Located in the constellation of Cancer, the cluster appears as a fuzzy spot on the sky when looked at with the naked-eye.

View the cluster through a pair of binoculars and you’ll see the stellar swarm that earned this cluster its name.

The distant ice giant Uranus borders on the edge of naked-eye visibility making it difficult to spot in the night sky.

However, the conjunction of Mars and Uranus on the night of February 13 provides the perfect opportunity for observers to locate and view Uranus.

Use a pair of binoculars to find Mars and you’ll spot blue-green Uranus within the same field of view.

February’s full moon occurs on February 19 and is the second, and closest, of the three supermoons of 2019.

Don’t miss this supermoon as the next supermoon as close as this one requires a lengthy wait of almost eight years.

Of the five brightest naked-eye planets, Mercury is often said to be the most difficult to spot in the sky and is sometimes referred to as “The elusive planet”.

Being so close to the sun, Mercury tends to get lost in the glare of our parent star.

On February 27, Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation and observers can catch a glimpse of the planet lying above the western horizon after sunset.

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