Astronomy Essentials

Visible planets and night sky February 2023

Venus and Jupiter in February. Venus goes up and Jupiter goes down. They are very close on February 28.
Venus is the brightest of the visible planets. And, at the beginning of February, it appears low in the west shortly after sunset. Meanwhile, Jupiter – 2nd-brightest planet – shines above Venus. As the month proceeds, Jupiter will drop lower, while Venus will climb higher. By February’s end, these 2 bright worlds will be very close to each other. Spectacular! They’ll appear closest on the evening of March 1, 2023 (they are precisely closest to each other at 11 UTC, or 5 a.m. CST, on March 2, when they’ll be 0.5 degrees apart). Afterwards, Venus will remain in our evening twilight sky for some months. It’ll reach its greatest elongation – its greatest apparent distance from the sunset – on June 4, 2023. But Jupiter will drop into the sunset glare sometime in March. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

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Visible planets (evening, February 2023)

Venus, the brightest planet, is climbing higher in the west after sunset each night. And – wowser! – it’s moving closer to the 2nd-brightest planet, Jupiter, now descending into the sunset glare. Watch for these two bright worlds in the western twilight. By February’s end, they’ll be super noticeable … ready to dazzle you! Don’t miss them near the waxing crescent moon on February 21 and 22. Their conjunction will come in early March.
Mars is high in the evening sky, noticeably red in color, setting several hours after midnight. Mars is still brighter than most stars, even though it’s shrinking and fading since its recent opposition on December 8, 2022. Earth flew between Mars and the sun in December. Now Earth is fleeing ahead of Mars in our smaller, faster orbit around the sun. And as a result, Mars is fading in brightness. The moon will sweep past Mars around February 27 and 28.

Visible planets (morning, February 2023)

Mercury reached greatest elongation – its greatest apparent distance from the sun – on January 30. It’s well placed throughout February – in the sunrise direction – for viewing from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. But Northern Hemisphere observers will find Mercury much tougher to spot in morning twilight. And northern stargazers will likely lose sight of Mercury by mid-month, while southern stargazers might see Mercury until the month’s end.

Where’s Saturn? It’s too close to the sun to be visible this month. Its conjunction with the sun will come on February 16.

People often ask if our charts apply to them. Yes, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. Not as precisely, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. To see a precise view from your location, try the free online planetarium program at Stellarium-web.org.

Looking for a dark sky? Check out EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze.

In this article:

Visible planets and night sky guide February 2023

February 2 and 3 evenings: Moon near Castor and Pollux

The moon is near Castor and Pollux on February 2 and 3.
On the evenings of February 2 and 3, the bright waxing gibbous moon climbs in the east, near the twin stars of Gemini. The brighter star is golden Pollux, and the fainter one is white Castor. Although the twin stars don’t look alike, they’re noticeable near each other in the sky for being bright and close together. Also nearby is Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. Read more about the moon near Castor and Pollux. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The instant of full moon is 18:28 UTC on February 5 (12:28 p.m. CST)

February 5 evening: Moon near Regulus and Sickle

The full moon in Leo on February 5.
February’s full moon – the most distant and therefore smallest full moon of 2023 – will come on February 5. And that night finds the moon glowing in the famous Sickle asterism – a backwards question mark pattern – of the constellation Leo the Lion. So, on February 5, you’ll see the full moon near Leo’s brightest star, Regulus. Regulus is the only 1st-magnitude star that sits almost right on the ecliptic, or path of the sun, moon and planets. So bright planets often sweep near Regulus. And this star is often occulted by the moon. You can see the moon near the Sickle until sunrise on the morning of February 6. Read more about the February full moon near Regulus. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February mornings: Mercury from Northern Hemisphere

Mercury in February in the Northern Hemisphere.
From the Northern Hemisphere, little Mercury – innermost world in our solar system – can be found very low in the east before sunrise at the beginning of February. For Northern Hemisphere skywatchers, it’ll disappear by mid-month. Can’t see Mercury? Try using binoculars to scan near the sunrise horizon. If you have dark skies, you might also be able to find the famous Teapot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius the Archer, nearby. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February mornings: Mercury from Southern Hemisphere

Mercury in February from the Southern Hemisphere.
From the Southern Hemisphere, Mercury has its best morning apparition of the year in February 2023. It can be found in the east before sunrise, near the Teapot of Sagittarius. A waning crescent moon will join Mercury on the mornings of February 17 and 18. Mercury reached its greatest elongation from the sun on January 30, 2023. Each morning throughout February, it’ll sink a little lower, and – for Southern Hemisphere skywatchers – finally leave the scene in early March. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February evenings: Mars in Taurus

Mars in February.
In the evenings throughout February, bright red Mars is in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Mars is well placed for observing most of the night following its December 2022 opposition. It moves almost overhead near the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters with Orion the Hunter finishing the scene. Also nearby are 2 bright red stars: Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull in Taurus, and Betelgeuse, Orion the Hunter’s right shoulder. Mars sets after 3 a.m. at the beginning of the month. And it’s gone after 2 a.m. at month’s end. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February 11 morning: Moon near Spica

The moon and Spica on February 11
After midnight and through the morning of February 11, 2023, find the waning gibbous moon hanging near the bright star Spica in Virgo the Maiden. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky. Read more about the moon near Spica.

The instant of last quarter moon is 16:01 UTC on February 13 (10:01 a.m. CST February 14)

February 14 and 15 mornings: Moon near Antares

The crescent moon in Scorpius on February 14 and 15.
On the mornings of February 14 and 15, 2023, the waning crescent moon floats near Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius the Scorpion. Also, look for the Crown of Scorpius in the brightening eastern twilight. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky. Read more about the moon near Antares.

Saturn is most directly behind the sun from Earth – at conjunction – on February 16, 2023

February 16 and 17 mornings: Moon near Teapot of Sagittarius

The thin crescent moon is near the Teapot on February 16 and 17.
The very thin waning crescent moon hangs in the east near the Teapot of Sagittarius the Archer before sunrise on February 16 and 17, 2023. Higher in the sky is the bright red star Antares in the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. Also, the bright glow you see on the unlit portion of the moon is earthshine. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky. Read more about the moon near the Teapot.

The instant of new moon is 7:06 UTC (1:06 a.m. CST) on February 20

February 21 and 22 evenings: Moon near Venus and Jupiter

The moon, Venus, and Jupiter on Feb. 21 and 22.
The thin waxing crescent moon sinks in the west near bright Venus on February 21, 2023. Then the following evening, a thicker waxing crescent moon floats near Jupiter. Also, the beautiful glow you see on the unlit portion of the moon is earthshine. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February 25 and 26 evenings: Moon near Aldebaran and Pleiades

The moon and the Pleiades on February 25 and 26.
The waxing crescent moon visits the constellation of Taurus the Bull, shining near the glittering Pleiades star cluster on February 25, 2023. Then, on the following evening, it lies amid the triangle formed by Pleiades, the fiery red star Aldebaran, and Mars. Mars – which was at its brightest during opposition in December – continues to fade every week as we race away from it in our orbit around the sun. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The instant of 1st quarter moon is 8:06 UTC on February 27 (2:06 a.m. CST)

February 27 and 28 evenings: Moon near Mars

Moon and Mars on February 27 and 28.
The first quarter moon glows west of Mars on the evening of February 27, 2023, and then the waxing gibbous moon is to its east the following night. Nearby is the fiery red star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the Bull, with the impressive constellation of Orion the Hunter following them across the sky. While Mars currently rivals our brightest stars, it will continue to fade for the rest of this year. Mars was recently closest to Earth on November 30, 2022, and reached opposition on December 8, 2022. You can enjoy this scene until almost midnight. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Late February to early March evenings: Venus and Jupiter!

Venus and Jupiter conjunction February 28 - March 2,
Venus and Jupiter shine brightly in the west after sunset and have been getting closer all month. Venus is the brighter of the two planets. On February 28, 2023, they are approaching a close conjunction. In fact, they will appear closest to us on the evening of March 1, 2023. However, they are closest to each other at 11 UTC (5 a.m. CST) on March 2, 2023, when they’ll be 0.5 degrees apart. Start looking as soon as it’s late twilight. Venus is shining at -4.0 magnitude and Jupiter at -2.1 magnitude. Both planets set roughly about 2 hours after sunset. Even though they are probably too far apart to fit in the same field of view of most telescopes, they’ll easily show up in a pair of binoculars. And they’ll still be close on March 2. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

Sky dome maps

The sky dome maps come from master astronomy chart-maker Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2023 in his Astronomical Calendar. Guy explains:

The sky dome map for each month shows what is above the horizon at a convenient (local) evening time for latitude 40 degrees north. If you travel north, stars at the south edge of the map disappear; at the north edge others spend more time above the horizon.

You can see the relation between the map and sky by holding the map over your face. The central point of the map is the overhead point, or zenith. Orient the map so the direction you are facing (east, west, north or south) is at the bottom.

Stars are shown down to magnitude 5.5, so you might require a dark sky to see some of the dimmer stars shown or the Milky Way. Also, the map only shows the more conspicuous constellations.

Planets are shown on the 16th of the month in the mid-evening sky, with symbols sized for brightness like the stars. All planets are visible to the unaided eye except Neptune. Furthermore, planets in the sky after midnight and in the twilight sky near sunset or sunrise will not appear on the sky dome maps.

The moon is shown (exaggerated 8 times in size) at 0 UTC on the days when it is at first quarter and full phases. This is 7 p.m EST on the previous day. It is also in its geocentric position, that is, without parallax; as seen from northern latitudes, it is slightly farther south.

Major meteor showers are indicated by bursts of lines pointing out from their radiant. But some are not shown, because their radiants are not in view at map time.

The ecliptic is drawn as a thick curve. It marks the plane in which the Earth revolves around the sun.

The celestial equator curves from the east point to the west point of each map. At declination 0, it is the only line of declination shown. Ticks along it are at the 24 hours of right ascension.

Circle constellations, planets, the moon, the Milky Way and celestial lines.
View larger. | Here is the sky dome view for February 2023. It shows what is above the horizon at mid-evening for mid-northern latitudes. The view may vary depending on your location. Image via Guy Ottewell. Used with permission.

Heliocentric solar system planets

The sun-centered charts come from Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2023 here, in his Astronomical Calendar. Guy Ottewell explains:

In these views from ecliptic north, arrows (thinner when south of the ecliptic plane) are the paths of the four inner planets. Dots along the rest of the orbits are five days apart (and are black for the part of its course that a planet has trodden since the beginning of the year). Also, semicircles show the sunlit side of the new and full moon (vastly exaggerated in size and distance). Additionally, 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. Likewise, 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).

Circle with sun at center, planets around, and zodiac names on outer edge.
View larger. | Heliocentric view of solar system, February 2023. 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 own night sky photos at EarthSky Community Photos.

Translate Universal Time (UTC) to your time.

See the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Visit Stellarium-Web.org for precise views from your location.

Almanac: Bright Planets (rise and set times for your location).

Visit TheSkyLive for precise views from your location.

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

Cover of book with sky full of constellations over a camel caravan and title Astronomical Calendar 2023.
Amateur astronomers are buzzing! Guy Ottewell is offering his beloved Astronomical Calendar for 2023 in both electronic and printed versions.
A modern chair, a large plant and the zodiac wavy chart on the wall.
Guy Ottewell’s Zodiac Wavy Chart is a 2-by-3 foot (0.6 by 0.9 meter) poster displaying the movements of the sun, moon and planets throughout the year. You can purchase it here. Image via Guy Ottewell.

Bottom line: February visible planets including dazzling Jupiter and Venus in the west after sunset. These two – the two brightest planets visible from Earth – will be spectacular as this month progresses. Meanwhile, bright red Mars is high in the evening sky. And Mercury is up in the east before the sun, best from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere.

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Posted 
February 1, 2023
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

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