Start watching on the mornings of February 11 to 16, 2022, to see all the rocky inner planets in our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Mars (and Earth beneath your feet). Look in the sunrise direction as dawn is beginning to break.
- Mercury returned to the eastern morning sky in late January. It now will ascend towards its greatest elongation 26° west of the Sun on the 17th. Mid-February to early March marks the best period this year for observing Mercury in the morning sky. It then commences to sink back towards the Sun, it finishes the month 4° above Saturn. Stay tuned for an even closer rendezvous early in March. After February 16, the bright morning twilight quickly overpowers Mercury’s diminishing light.
- Venus is now rising in the early morning in the constellation of Sagittarius. In early February 2022, you’ll easily spot Venus near the sunrise. It is very bright! It is sharing the constellation with the red planet Mars, and by the end of the month, the two planets will be only about 5° apart. Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy on the 13th at – 4.8 magnitude. This is known as its greatest illuminated extent. This occurs when the planet’s bright portion or dayside covers the greatest amount of sky. At this time, if we were to look through binoculars or a small telescope, we would see Venus like a small crescent or similar to the three- -day old Moon.
Be careful using binoculars when looking at the planets after twilight due to their close proximity to the Sun. Do not try if the Sun has already risen or is in the process of rising.
- Mars was not visible as it travelled behind the Sun as seen from the Earth. By late December 2021, Mars was just visible, with difficulty, before the Sun came up. Throughout January, it was similar. It has been seen very low in the East before sunrise, but only with some difficulty. But Mars grows slowly in brightness throughout February, as it very slowly climbs out of the sunrise. Mars spends February 2022 perched directly south of brilliant Venus. Mars will be between Venus and the pretty crescent moon on February 27. These early-morning sightings – so near the Sun – can be tricky. If you look too early, Mars won’t have risen yet. If you look too late, bright twilight will drown Mars from view.
- Jupiter may be glimpsed early in the month low in the early western evening twilight. It then becomes too close to the Sun for observation and reappears in the morning sky in mid-March.
- Saturn returns to the morning eastern twilight at the end of the month after solar conjunction on the 5th. The planet is in Capricornus and remains in this constellation throughout the year. On the 28th, Saturn and Mercury appear 4° apart, and in early March, the pair get even closer.
- Uranus in Aries appears low in the early north-western evening sky after astronomical twilight. The planet remains in the constellation of the Ram until moving into Taurus in 2024. Do not confuse the nearby star, 29 Arietis, with Uranus as both are very close in magnitude. On February 7th, the day before the Moon reaches the first quarter, it will lie directly east of Uranus,
- Neptune is lost in the evening twilight as it is nearing conjunction with the Sun in mid-March.
The Moon this Month
(All times are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time)
- New Moon: 4:49 pm February 1st
- First Quarter: 12:50am February 9th
- Full Moon: 03:56 am February 17th
- Last quarter Moon: 09:32 am February 24th
On the 11th, at about 1pm, the Moon will be at its furthest point or apogee when it is 404,897km away. While on the 27th at 8am AEDT, the Moon will be at perigee – the closest it comes to Earth – being a mere 367,789 km away from us.