This is your monthly guide to observing the planets, celestial events, moon phases, this day in space history, NASA launches, and other astronomy resources.
Observing The Planets:
- Mercury (morning planet, magnitude -0.1) remains low in the east and visible until about February 18.
- Venus (morning planet, magnitude -3.9) is visible in the southeast in the predawn sky.
- Mars (morning planet, magnitude +0.7, in Libra) is visible in the east just before sunrise.
- Jupiter (morning/evening planet, magnitude -2.4, between Leo and Virgo) rises in the evening and high by midnight. Visible in the predawn sky as well.
- Saturn (morning planet, magnitude +0.5, in Ophiuchus) rises around 2 am and up in the south-southeast by dawn.
- Uranus (evening planet, magnitude +5.9, in Pisces) is in the west after sunset.
- Neptune (evening planet, magnitude +8, in Aquarius) is getting lost the sunset.
Understanding Visual Magnitude: Magnitude is a scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmer the object the greater the number. The brightest objects generally receive negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude -4.9, the full moon is generally -12.7 and the sun is -26.8.
Moon Phases & Celestial Events:
- February 1: Moon less than 3° from Mars.
- February 3: Moon about 4° from Saturn.
- February 6: Mercury, Venus, and Moon close.
- February 8: New Moon at 8:39 am CST.
- February 10: The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) at 9 pm CST at a distance of 364,360 km with an angular size of 32.8′.
- February 13: Mercury and Venus are 4° apart.
- February 15: First Quarter Moon at 1:46 am CST.
- February 15: Moon about 2° from Aldebaran.
- February 15: Moon near the Pleiades in the evening sky.
- February 22: Full Moon at 12:20 pm CST.
- February 22: Moon less than 4° from Regulus.
- February 23: Moon 2° from Jupiter in evening sky.
- February 24 – March 9: The faint glow of the zodiacal light will be visible in the evenings for the next two weeks in the western sky just after sunset.
- February 26: Double shadow transit of Io and Europa across the face of Jupiter from 3:37–4:03 am CST. The Great Red Spot will also be visible.
- February 27: The Moon will be at apogee (farthest from Earth) at 9 pm CST at a distance of 405,383 km with an angular size of 29.5′.
- February 29: The Moon is 5° from Mars in the morning sky.
The following missions are scheduled for March:
Date: March 1, 2016.
Mission: Expedition 46 Undocking and Landing
Description: One-Year Mission crew members NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will conclude 340 days aboard the International Space Station, returning in the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft along with Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov. Kelly and Kornienko arrived at the station March 27, 2015, and Volkov joined the crew aboard the orbiting laboratory Sept. 4, 2015. Landing is scheduled at 11:27 p.m. ET (4:27 UTC and 10:27 a.m. local time in Kazakhstan on March 2).
Date: No Earlier Than March 10, 2016
Mission: Orbital ATK Resupply Mission to International Space Station (Orbital CRS-6)Description: Resupply of the International Space Station
Launch Vehicle: The Atlas V launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo craft
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
Want to learn more about what goes on each week on the International Space Station? Watch NASA’s weekly Space to Ground video log.
This Day In Space History:
- February 01, 2003: Space shuttle Columbia disintegrates on re-entry.
- February 03, 1966: Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to soft-land on Moon.
- February 07, 1984: The first untethered space walk was done by Bruce McCandless.
- February 15, 1564: Galileo was born.
- February 16, 1948: Miranda, moon of Uranus, was discovered by Gerard Kuiper.
- February 18, 1930: Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto.
- February 19. 1473: Nicolas Copernicus was born.
- February 20, 1962: John Glenn was the first American in orbit.
- Satellite flybys: Want to know when satellites, the International Space Station, and the Hubble Space Telescope will fly over your location? Enter your zip code here to get a personal calendar.
- Our Current Solar System: Find out the current distances and locations of the solar system planets from the Earth and sun right now.
- The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky
- Sighting the International Space Station (ISS)
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