Astronomy Essentials

Visible planets, stars, moon, more, late January and February

Find these visible planets in late January and February 2022:

Venus
Jupiter
Saturn
Mercury
Mars

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

Visible planets, stars, the moon, charts and more
Late January and February 2022 visible planets in depth
The moon’s monthly journey
January 2022 heliocentric solar system

EarthSky’s 2022 lunar calendars are available now! We’re guaranteed to sell out, so get one while you can.

Visible planets, stars, the moon and more

Chart showing visible planets Venus, Mars, and a crescent moon near slanted green line of ecliptic.
By the morning of January 29, 2022, the crescent moon will form a line with faint Mars and brilliant Venus. Mars is now far across the solar system from Earth, having passed behind the sun as seen from Earth on October 8, 2021. Read more about Mars. Venus is relatively nearby and very bright, having passed between us and the sun on January 8-9, 2022. Read more about Venus.
Chart with crescent moon to the lower left of Jupiter, both close to the horizon.
The waxing crescent moon and Jupiter are near one another the evening of February 2, 2022. But, in early February, Jupiter is about to disappear into the sunset glare.
Venus, with colorful rays, shining through bare, twiggy treetops.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | It’s been a couple weeks since Venus passed between the Earth and sun (more or less), at inferior conjunction on January 8. At that time, it left the evening sky and entered the morning sky. In late January and early February 2022, you’ll easily spot Venus near the sunrise. It’s bright … very bright. It’s heading toward another greatest brilliancy, centered on February 9, 2022. This photo shows Venus shining brilliantly through bare treetops on November 28, 2021, not long before its greatest brilliancy in the evening sky in early December. Ragini Chaturvedi in New Jersey captured it and wrote: “The brilliant, bright – like a diamond in the sky – Venus was too pretty to not look at and click.” Thank you, Ragini!
Three charts showing Venus as a dot rising higher in the lightening sky beside a tree.
View larger. | Around its February 9, 2022, greatest brilliancy, you might spot Venus in the daytime. The easiest way to do that is to start when it’s still night. Find Venus near the sunrise point in the morning. Be sure to position it near a tree, lamppost, or building in your foreground. Then keep track of it after the sun rises and the sky turns blue. Chart via John Jardine Goss.
Large circle of black showing a tiny crescent planet Venus. White text below.
Being an inner planet – inside the orbit of Earth – Venus (and Mercury) show phases just like the moon. This is how Venus would look like through binoculars or a telescope in late January and early February, around the time of its greatest brilliancy on February 9, 2022.
Chart with Venus near top, red Mars lower right and Mercury down far left near slanted green line of ecliptic.
See all the rocky planets in our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Mars (and Earth beneath your feet) – on the mornings of February 11 to 16, 2022. Look in the sunrise direction as dawn is beginning to break.
Sirius with line pointing to Orion's belt in the larger constellation.
From southerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll see Sirius and Canopus arcing across the southern sky on winter evenings. Sirius is the sky’s brightest star. You’ll always know it’s Sirius because Orion’s Belt – 3 stars in a short, straight row – points to it. As seen from the latitudes like those in Florida, Texas or southern California, Canopus – the 2nd brightest star – arcs across the south below Sirius. From farther south on the sky’s dome, Sirius and Canopus cross higher in the sky, like almost-twin diamonds.
Venus near top with red Mars lower right and crescent moon below Mars.
On the morning of February 27, 2022, watch for the waning crescent moon to form a line with Mars and Venus – in the sunrise direction – shortly before sunup. This is the Northern Hemisphere view. From this hemisphere, unless you’re an experienced observer with an excellent sky (and possibly optical aid), you probably won’t see the moon on February 29. The view is much better from the Southern Hemisphere! See the chart below. Chart via John Jardine Goss.
Chart with Mars above Venus and then a gap with Mercury above Saturn by horizon. Moon passing on right.
Here’s the view from the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re down there, try looking both on the mornings of February 27 and on February 28. You’ll have a chance to see not 2, but 4 planets close to the horizon. We’re jealous! We can’t see this (or at least not without difficulty) from the northern part of Earth. It’s better from the Southern Hemisphere because the ecliptic, or path of the sun, moon and planets, makes a steep (favorable) angle with the predawn horizon in autumn (which it nearly is, for the southern part of Earth). Chart via John Jardine Goss.

Late January and February 2022 visible planets in depth

Also see the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Jupiter, the 2nd-brightest planet, is the only visible evening planet in late January and early February. You’ll find it in the sunset direction, still shining brightly although now very near the sunset glare. By mid-February, you’ll still spot Jupiter, just above the sunset horizon, in very bright twilight, shortly after the sun goes down. In the days and weeks after that, the giant planet becomes lost in the sunset glare.

Before it disappears, on the evening of February 2, be sure to look outside to catch the young moon – a waxing crescent – hanging near Jupiter in the twilight sky.

Jupiter will reach its superior conjunction (when it’s most directly behind the sun as seen from Earth) on March 5, 2022.

Saturn will reach superior conjunction on February 4. That’s when it and the sun have the same right ascension on our sky’s dome. In other words, in February, the sun and Saturn are traveling together across the sky during the day. Why? Because the planet Saturn is traveling behind the sun as seen from the planet Earth. Saturn has been gone from our evening sky since about mid-January. We won’t see it again until it returns to the dawn sky in March.

By April 2022 mornings, we’ll see both Saturn and Jupiter in the east before dawn, beginning their 2022 cycle of visibility in our sky. This cycle for these outer planets, by the way, is driven mostly by the length of Earth’s year-long orbit around the sun.

In 2022, Saturn will reach its opposition – when Earth passes between it and the sun – on August 14. Jupiter’s opposition will come on September 26.

Venus After having moved between Earth and the sun on January 9, Venus now shines brilliantly in our morning sky as dawn’s light begins to break. It will be at its brightest for all of 2022 on the mornings around February 8, an event called greatest brilliancy by astronomers. Don’t miss Venus before sunup on these late January/early February mornings. What a beautiful, blazing “morning star” it is.

On January 29, a thin crescent moon – what astronomers call an old moon – will join the scene, floating near Venus in the eastern predawn sky. Gorgeous!

On these late January mornings, and throughout February, Venus appears as a very thin crescent world. In other words, its “day” side is facing mostly away from us now. Aim a pair of well-focused binoculars toward Venus. You’ll see the crescent always points toward the sun, i.e., the tips of its crescent – its “horns” – point directly away from the sun.

Throughout February, the crescent Venus will wax larger. Venus will be showing us more of its lighted face as this Earth-sized planet swings farther to the west of the sun, before reaching its greatest western elongation on March 20.

Because Venus is so bright in late January and early February, it’s a great time to try to spot it in the daytime. Simply follow the planet as sunrise nears, then keep an eye on it after the sun pokes above the horizon. (Be sure not to look at the sun!) To make this easier, position yourself so that Venus is placed just above a foreground object such as a tree or utility pole.

Sphere from horizon at center moves to upper left, then cuts across top as it grows larger but thins to crescent, then drops down.
View larger. | The 2022 morning elongation of Venus, the brightest planet, will come on March 20. For the Northern Hemisphere, the low angle of the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets – on spring mornings will keep Venus relatively low in the eastern predawn sky. But it will be very bright, especially in early February 2022. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2022 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.
Round sphere becomes larger but thins to a crescent shape in a loop from the horizon, from lower right to upper left and above, then down to lower right.
View larger. | For the Southern Hemisphere, the March 20, 2022, greatest elongation of Venus will place this dazzlingly bright planet high in the eastern predawn sky. That’s because March signals autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. And the autumn angle of the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets – is steep relative to the horizon on autumn mornings. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2022 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

Mercury makes a brief appearance for Northern Hemisphere skywatchers, low in the east before sunrise, beginning in the second week of February. On February 16, 2022, Mercury reaches what astronomers call greatest western elongation, at which it lies at its greatest angular distance from the sun as viewed from our earthly vantage point. After February 16, the bright morning twilight quickly overpowers Mercury’s diminishing light. It won’t be easily found from northerly latitudes in late February.

Observers in the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, will have a great display of Mercury throughout February. The little planet will be well above the sunrise horizon before sunup, in darker twilight. So, from the Southern Hemisphere, Mercury will be easier to spot. After February 21, Mercury shines very low, but it still should be visible for those observers who have a clear southeastern horizon. On the final morning of the month, the thin crescent moon – what astronomers call an “old” moon – will lie immediately above Mercury, and Saturn will be below it. This will be an enchanting scene to view, especially through binoculars!

Mars, like Saturn, was traveling behind the sun from Earth. By late December 2021, Mars was just visible, with difficulty, in the direction of sunrise, before the sun came up. And throughout January, it has been the same. Mars has been seen very low in the east before sunrise, but only with some difficulty. Most people never saw it at all – haven’t seen it yet – while gazing at blazing Venus in the same region of the sky.

But Mars grows slowly in brightness throughout February, as it slowly, very slowly, climbs out of the sunrise. It is ever thus for Mars when it begins a new cycle of visibility. Mars spends February 2022 perched directly south of brilliant Venus.

On January 29, the old moon will join Venus and Mars, forming an intriguing celestial line-up: brilliant Venus, far-dimmer Mars and the glowing crescent moon. Then wait another month for the moon to come around again. Mars will be between Venus and the pretty crescent moon on the morning of 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.

Don’t let Mars fool you. Despite its inconspicuousness now, it’ll grow brighter – and brighter – over the first 11 months of 2022. In other words, for most of the year. It’ll be brightest as Earth passes between Mars and the sun in December 2022.

The moon’s monthly journey

Throughout the month, the moon, with its changing phases, passes near planets and stars, creating interesting, even captivating scenes in the sky.

January 24: the almost third quarter moon slides north of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

January 27: the waning crescent moon moves among the stars of the Crown of Scorpius and just to the northwest of the bright star Antares.

January 29: the thin waning crescent moon glows with earthshine in the southeast 60 minutes before sunrise. Dim Mars lies directly east of the moon.

February 2: Immediately after sunset, the thin waxing moon floats below Jupiter low in the southwestern sky.

February 3: Thin waxing crescent moon glows just south of invisible Neptune.

February 7: One day before it reaches first quarter (half or “D” shaped phase), the moon lies directly east of Uranus.

February 9: The waxing gibbous moon glows just north of the red star Aldebaran.

February 10 and 11: The bright waxing gibbous moon sits above the sky’s most well-known constellation, Orion.

February 13: Nearing its full phase, the moon lies in a line with the two twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.

February 15: The bright full moon glows to the northeast of the brightest star in Leo, Regulus.

February 20: During the overnight of February 20, the moon, approaching third quarter, moves to the east of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

February 24: After it rises around 2 a.m., the waning crescent moon is found to the northeast of the bright star Antares in Scorpius.

February 26: Before morning twilight brightens, the waning crescent moon forms an interesting elongated right triangle with Venus and Mars.

February 27: The thin crescent moon forms a line with brilliant Venus and the much dimmer Mars in the morning sky.

January 2022 heliocentric solar system

The sun-centered chart below comes from Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2022 in his Astronomical Calendar.

Inner solar system centered on sun with zodiac constellations in outer ring.
View larger. | Heliocentric view of solar system, January 2022. Guy Ottwell explains: “In these views from ecliptic north, arrows (thinner when south of the ecliptic plane) are the paths of the 4 inner planets. Dots along the rest of the orbits are 5 days apart (and are black for the part of its course that a planet has trodden since the beginning of the year). Semicircles show the sunlit side of the new and full moon (vastly exaggerated in size and distance). Pairs of lines point outward to the more remote planets. Phenomena such as perihelia (represented by ticks) and conjunctions (represented by lines between planets) are at dates that can be found in the Astronomical Calendar. Gray covers the half of the universe below the horizon around 10 p.m. at mid- month (as seen from the equator). The zodiacal constellations are in directions from the Earth at mid-month (not from the sun).” Chart via Guy Ottewell.
Inner solar system centered on sun with zodiac constellations in outer ring.
View larger. | Heliocentric view of solar system, February 2022. Guy Ottwell explains: “In these views from ecliptic north, arrows (thinner when south of the ecliptic plane) are the paths of the 4 inner planets. Dots along the rest of the orbits are 5 days apart (and are black for the part of its course that a planet has trodden since the beginning of the year). Semicircles show the sunlit side of the new and full moon (vastly exaggerated in size and distance). Pairs of lines point outward to the more remote planets. Phenomena such as perihelia (represented by ticks) and conjunctions (represented by lines between planets) are at dates that can be found in the Astronomical Calendar. Gray covers the half of the universe below the horizon around 10 p.m. at mid- month (as seen from the equator). The zodiacal constellations are in directions from the Earth at mid-month (not from the sun).” Chart via Guy Ottewell.

Some resources to enjoy

Don’t miss anything. Subscribe to daily emails from EarthSky. It’s free!

Visit EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze to find a dark-sky location near you.

Post your planet photos at EarthSky Community Photos.

Visit Stellarium-Web or TheSkyLive for precise views from your location

The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides specific planet rise and set info (U.S. and Canada)

Timeanddate.com provides specific planet rise and set info (worldwide)

Click here for recommended almanacs to find out precise rise and set times

Translate Universal Time (UTC) to your time

Read: Ecliptic is the sun’s path in our sky

Read: Planet-observing is easy. Top tips here

Check out the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Back by popular demand! Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar for 2022

Great resource and beautiful wall chart: Guy Ottewell’s zodiac wavy chart

Photo of a chair, a large plant, and the zodiac wavy chart above them.
Guy Ottewell’s Zodiac Wavy Chart is a 2-by-3 foot poster displaying the movements of the sun, moon and planets throughout the year. You can purchase it here.

Bottom line: All you need to know about finding bright planets, stars and more in late January and February 2022.

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Posted 
January 23, 2022
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

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