Astronomy Essentials

Visible planets and night sky January and February

2 positions of gibbous moon, 1 on each side of Mars, with Aldebaran and Orion.
The waxing gibbous moon slides by Mars on the nights of January 30 and 31, 2023, then sets a few hours before sunrise. Another red object near Mars is the fiery red star Aldebaran, the Eye of Taurus the Bull. The eye-catching constellation of Orion the Hunter finishes out the cosmic scene. Plus, parts of the globe can enjoy a lunar occultation of Mars at 4 UTC January 31, 2023. Read more about the moon near Mars. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Now on sale! The 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year. Treat yourself!

Visible planets (evening)

Saturn is near the sunset, near much-brighter Venus around January 22. Venus is the brightest planet and the next planet inward from our Earth in orbit around the sun. Saturn is much fainter, but golden in color. The best time for observing Venus and Saturn is right after darkness falls. They set soon after sunset. In January 2023, Saturn is sinking into the sunset. But Venus is rising out of it, climbing higher each night in the western twilight. After Saturn disappears, Venus will shine brilliantly in our evening twilight sky for many months. It’ll reach its greatest elongation – its greatest apparent distance from the sun – on June 4. And Venus will remain visible in the evening sky through August of 2023. Meanwhile, Saturn is best viewed in early January and will be poorly placed by the month’s end. Saturn will be in conjunction with the sun on February 16, 2023, afterwards emerging as a morning object in March.
Jupiter is easy to spot, brighter than all the stars. It’s edging toward the sunset now, and will be gone – behind the sun from our earthly perspective – after 9:30 p.m. at January’s end.
Mars is high in the evening sky and is visible until a few hours before dawn. It’s very red now and still brighter than most stars. Mars reached opposition on December 8, 2022, when Earth flew between Mars and the sun. It was brightest then – fading now – but still respectably bright (for the moment).

Visible planets (morning)

On January mornings, Mars is shining brightly in the west (opposite the sunrise horizon) a few hours before sunrise. Since Mars reached opposition on December 8, 2022, Mars is now the brightest it will be in 2023.
Mercury reappeared in the morning sky around mid-January. Mercury will reach greatest elongation on January 30, 2023.

People often ask if our charts apply to them. Yes, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. Not as precisely, though, 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, Stellarium Online.

Looking for a dark sky? Try EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze

In this article:

Visible planets and night sky guide January and February 2023

Paths of Venus and Saturn, January 2023

Steep line of ecliptic with arrows showing motion of Venus and Saturn along it.
Venus – the brightest planet – and golden Saturn are paired up in the late January 2023 evening sky. All month, Venus has been climbing higher in the west after sunset at the close of each new day, as dimmer Saturn has sunk lower. They are nearest each other around January 20 to 24. Afterwards, Saturn will disappear into the sunset glare, and Venus will continue climbing higher in the western twlight each night. Its highest point will come in June. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The instant of 1st quarter moon is 15:19 UTC on January 28 (9:19 a.m. CST)

Mercury reaches greatest morning elongation on January 30 at 6 UTC (12 a.m. CST)

January 30-31: The moon will cover Mars

Gibbous moon inside black circle with arrow showing movement over a red dot.
Fresh from the lunar occultation of Mars in December 2022, the pair will do it again on January 30, 2023. As seen from North America, Mars will lie off the waxing gibbous moon’s dark limb that evening. As the night proceeds, the moon will move closer to Mars, covering it as viewed from locations in the southern U.S. and extending farther south. Check the map at In-the-Sky to see if the event is visible where you live. For those outside the occultation viewing area, you’ll get to see a very close pairing of the moon and the red planet. Read more about the moon occults Mars on January 30-31. Chart by John Goss/ EarthSky.

January evenings: Jupiter in Pisces

Complex star chart with Jupiter below the Great Square and near the Circlet of Pisces, all labeled.
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, shines brightly in the January 2023 evening sky. It’s the brightest “star” high in our southwestern night sky; you can’t miss it. In fact, it might still be the first point of light you’ll see as the sky starts to darken after sunset (in reality, Venus is bright but visible only in bright twilight). Jupiter lies south of the eastern side of the Great Square, a group of 4 stars in the constellation Pegasus the Winged Horse. And between the Great Square and the bright planet is a pretty but faint group of 6 stars known as the Circlet. They compose the western section of the constellation Pisces the Fishes. You’ll need a dark sky to see the faint stars of Pisces. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

January evenings: Mars in Taurus

Mars near Hyades and Pleiades and Aldebaran, near green ecliptic line, all labeled.
In the evenings throughout January 2023, bright red Mars is in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. It’s near the shimmering Pleiades star cluster. Also nearby, the bright red star Aldebaran can guide you to a V-shaped star cluster known as the Hyades. Mars is well placed for observing most of the night. Mars reached its once-in-2-years opposition in December, 2022. So in January, Mars is the brightest it will be this year. It’ll start the month at magnitude -1.2 dimming to magnitude -0.3 at month’s end. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Visible planets: Night sky guide for February 2023

February evenings: Venus and Jupiter shine brightly near each other

Venus and Jupiter in February.
At the beginning of February, brilliant Venus appears low in the west shortly after sunset and rises a little higher each evening. Bright Jupiter shines above Venus. As the month proceeds, Jupiter drops lower while the brighter Venus climbs higher. At the end of the month, they are very close to each other. In fact, they’ll appear closest to us 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). Venus will reach its greatest elongation from the sun on June 4, 2023, and be visible in the evening sky through August. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February mornings: Mercury from the Northern Hemisphere

Mercury in February in the Northern Hemisphere.
From the Northern Hemisphere, little Mercury can be found very low in the east before sunrise at the beginning of February and disappears by mid-month. Mercury reached its greatest elongation from the sun on January 30, 2023. Mercury may be challenging to find from the Northern Hemisphere, so binoculars might help. If you have dark skies, you may be able to find the Teapot of Sagittarius the Archer nearby. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February mornings: Mercury from the Southern Hemisphere

Mercury in February from the Southern Hemisphere.
From the Southern Hemisphere, little Mercury can be found very low in the east before sunrise. It lies near the Teapot of Sagittarius the Archer. A waning crescent moon joins Mercury on the mornings of February 17 and 18, 2023. Mercury reached its greatest elongation from the sun on January 30, 2023, and is ending the best morning apparition of the year for the Southern Hemisphere. Each morning it sinks a little lower, and finally leaves 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, and Betelgeuse, the Hunter’s right shoulder. Mars sets after 3:00 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 2 and 3 evenings: Moon near Castor and Pollux

The moon is near Castor and Pollux on Feb. 2 and 3.
The bright waxing gibbous moon climbs in the east and near the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, in the early evenings of February 2 and 3, 2023. By the way, the waxing gibbous moon doesn’t set until almost sunrise the following morning, so you can see the moon near Castor and Pollux most of the night. Although the twin stars don’t look alike, they are quite noticeable near each other in the sky, because they’re bright and close together. Castor is the slightly dimmer star of the pair, and Pollux is more golden in color. Also nearby is Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. It’s sometimes called the Little Dog Star and rises before the Dog Star, Sirius. Read more about the moon near Castor and Pollux. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

February 5 evening: Moon near Regulus and the Sickle

The full moon in Leo on February 5.
The evening of February 5, 2023, finds the full moon glowing in the Sickle of Leo the Lion and above the bright star Regulus. Regulus is the only 1st-magnitude star that sits almost right on the ecliptic, the path the sun follows through the sky. So Regulus is often near a bright planet and can even be occulted by the moon. You can see the moon near the Sickle until sunrise tomorrow morning. Read more about the February full moon near Regulus. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

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

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 reaches solar conjunction with the sun on February 16, 2023

February 16 and 17 mornings: Moon near the 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.

February 28 – March 2 evenings: Venus and Jupiter conjunction

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 below 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 January 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.
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.

January and February heliocentric solar system planets

The sun-centered charts below 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, January 2023. Chart via Guy Ottewell.
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: In January, the morning planets are Mercury and Mars. In the evening, four planets are visible – Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus – with Venus and Saturn near each other and near the sunset, and Jupiter and Mars higher in the sky as night begins.

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Posted 
January 18, 2023
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

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