Planets and the moon, February 27 (and 28) mornings

Planets and the moon: Chart showing February 27, 2022 eastern predawn sky (Mars, Venus, moon), as seen from the Northern Hemisphere.
On the morning of February 27, 2022, watch for planets and the moon. The waning crescent will form a line with Mars and Venus – in the sunrise direction – shortly before sunup. This chart shows 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 28. The view is much better from the Southern Hemisphere! See the chart at the bottom of this post. Chart via John Jardine Goss.

Planets and the moon

Early risers have the advantage in planet-observing in late February, 2022, with some beautiful views in the east before sunrise. On February 27, shining Venus, faint Mars and a crescent moon will stand top-to-bottom in a nearly vertical line in the sunrise direction. Two other planets – Saturn and Mercury – are there, too, hiding in the sunrise glare for Northern Hemisphere viewers. But you can probably see them from the Southern Hemisphere, especially on the morning of February 28, when the moon will be an even thinner crescent, closer to the sunrise.

The moon’s closest approach to Mars is on February 27 at 11 UTC or 5 a.m. CST. At that time the moon will be 3.5 degrees southeast of Mars. Mars will be shining faintly at magnitude 1.3. Venus is a brilliant magnitude -4.6.

If you start looking early enough before sunrise, while the sky is still relatively dark, you’ll see the stars surrounding these newly risen planets. The trio of Venus, Mars and the moon are in front of the constellation Sagittarius. Sagittarius’s asterism of the Teapot is just to the right of the line of planets. The trio lies close to where we see the starry band of the Milky Way running across a dark sky. And indeed the constellation Sagittarius marks the direction to gaze toward the Milky Way’s center.

The 2022 lunar calendars are still available. Order yours before they’re gone!

Star chart showing Venus, Mars, moon and Teapot.
Venus, Mars and the moon lie in front of Sagittarius on the morning of February 27, 2022. The noticeable pattern of the Teapot is near the planets and moon. Chart via Stellarium.

The moon meets two other planets on February 28

On February 27, from Northern Hemisphere locations, will you also see Saturn and Mercury? They are east of the trio and rise after the Venus-Mars-moon trio completely clears the horizon (see the chart below) and will be much more visible from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere than from Northern Hemisphere locations. Shortly after all four planets rise, the sun crests the horizon even farther to the east, overwhelming the light from the planets.

On the morning of February 28, the moon swings eastward, too, and appears closer to the planets Mercury and Saturn. But, for the Northern Hemisphere, this trio will be difficult (or impossible) to spot because they rise later, closer to dawn. The sliver-thin crescent moon will be very difficult as well on the morning of February 28, shining at only around 6% illumination. New moon will follow about two days later.

The moon’s closest approach to Mercury is on February 28 at 23 UTC or 5 p.m. CST. But the planets aren’t above the horizon at 5 p.m. CST! That’s okay. It just means they won’t be quite that close together when you see them. The moon will be 3.6 degrees southeast of magnitude -0.1 Mercury. And Saturn is dimmer at magnitude 0.8.

Planets and the moon: 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 in the Northern Hemisphere can’t see this (or at least not without difficulty). It’s better from the Southern Hemisphere because the ecliptic, or path of the sun, moon and planets over the sky, always 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.

Bottom line: The crescent moon meets up with planetary pairs in late February 2022. First it pulls alongside Venus and Mars on the morning of February 27. And then it meets Saturn and Mercury in the glow of dawn on February 28. Saturn and Mercury are difficult or impossible to see from the Northern Hemisphere, but Southern Hemisphere stargazers can pick them up.

February 26, 2022

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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