THE SOLAR SYSTEM IN FEBRUARY 2021

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours). Rise and Set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. Data is adapted from that shown by GUIDE 9.1.

THE SUN and PLANETS in FEBRUARY 2021, Rise & Set  Mag. & Cons.
          Feb 1        NZDT           Feb 28        NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set
SUN  -26.7  Cap   6.24am  8.43pm  -26.7  Aqr   6.58am  8.07pm
Merc   1.3  Cap   7.43am  9.08pm    0.2  Cap   4.46am  6.54pm
Venus -3.9  Cap   5.18am  8.06pm   -3.9  Aqr   6.22am  7.57pm
Mars   0.5  Ari   2.09pm 12.16am    0.9  Tau   1.41pm 11.14pm
Jup   -2.0  Cap   6.13am  8.37pm   -2.0  Cap   4.57am  7.06pm
Sat    0.6  Cap   5.49am  8.22pm    0.7  Cap   4.15am  6.42pm
Uran   5.8  Ari   1.36pm 12.09am    5.8  Ari  11.53am 10.24pm
Nep    7.9  Aqr   9.34am 10.19pm    8.0  Aqr   7.52am  8.35pm
Pluto 14.6  Sgr   4.51am  7.50pm   14.6  Sgr   3.09am  6.07pm

              February 1  NZDT          February 28  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening       morning     evening
Civil:    start 5.56am, end 9.12pm   start 6.32am, end  8.34pm
Nautical: start 5.18am, end 9.50pm   start 5.58am, end  9.08pm
Astro:    start 4.36am, end10.32pm   start 5.23am, end  9.43pm

   FEB PHASES OF THE MOON, times NZDT & UT
  Last quarter:  Feb  5 at  6.37am (Feb  4, 17:37 UT)
  New Moon:      Feb 12 at  8.06am (Eeb 11, 19:06 UT)
  First quarter: Feb 20 at  7.47am (Feb 19, 18:47 UT)
  Full Moon:     Feb 27 at  9.17pm (08:17 UT)

THE PLANETS in FEBRUARY 2021

MERCURY will slip out of the evening sky, probably unnoticed, during the first week of February. The planet is at inferior conjunction, between Earth and Sun on the 8th (very early 9th for NZ). At their closest Mercury would appear nearly 4° from the Sun. Mercury's magnitude will then be 5.2.

By the end of February Mercury should be visible in the morning sky: an hour before sunrise it will be 12° up, a little to the south of East. Jupiter will be 3° to the lower right of Mercury and should help in locating the innermost planet. But this will be about 6 am close to the start of Nautical twilight with the Sun 12° below the horizon.

MARS is the only naked eye planet visible in the evening sky throughout February. It moves from Aries to Taurus on the 24th and ends the month less than 4° from the Matariki (Pleiades) star cluster. At 10 pm Mars will be to the northwest about 11° above the horizon

VENUS is a morning sky object during February, rising over an hour before the Sun on the 1st and some 30 minutes before the Sun on the 28th. Both in morning twilight. It will be very low rather to the south of east.

The planet starts February as the furthest from the Sun of the four morning objects; by the end of the month it will be the nearest to the Sun. It passes Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury during the month.

On the morning of February 12 about 30 minutes before sunrise, the crescent moon will be just over 1° from Venus, the latter being a little under 8° above the horizon.

JUPITER and SATURN having been in conjunction with the Sun towards the end of January, are morning objects in February with Saturn the higher. The two planets are 8° apart at the end of the month

Venus is at conjunction with the two outer planets during the month, Saturn is at its closest to Venus on the morning of February 7 when they will be just over half a degree apart with Saturn to the upper left of Venus as seen, when visible, in NZ. Jupiter's conjunction with Venus is 5 mornings later with the two just under half a degree apart as seen from NZ.

Both conjunctions take place during morning twilight with the planets very low, a little to the south of east, making observation difficult. Venus should be visible by eye, Saturn may need the assistance of binoculars.

PLUTO, like Saturn and Jupiter is a morning object rising about an hour before Saturn.

URANUS is in the evening sky. It sets shortly after midnight on February 1 and about 10.30 pm on the 28th.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object but will set before the end of astronomical twilight on the 1st and before the end of civil twilight by the 28th.

POSSIBLE BINOCULAR ASTEROIDS in February

                   FEB 1 NZDT          FEB 28 NZDT  
                Mag  Cons  transit    Mag  Cons  transit
 (1) Ceres      9.3   Aqr   4.21pm    9.2   Psc   3.11pm
 (4) Vesta      6.7   Leo   4.13am    6.1   Leo   2.20am
(14) Irene      9.2   Cnc   1.05am    9.8   Cnc  10.58pm
(15) Eunomia    8.8   Cnc  12.36am    9.5   Gem  10.32pm
(18) Melpomene  9.4   Cnc   1.32am   10.2   Cnc  11.23pm
(29) Amphitrite 9.6   Leo   3.20am    9.2   Leo   1.09am

CERES is an evening object, setting at 11pm on the 1st and just after 9.30 pm on the 28th. Thus it is getting low in the evening sky.

VESTA is mainly a morning object, rising just before 11pm on the 1st and just after 9.30 pm on the 28th. On the morning of the 27th the almost full moon will be just under 6° to the left of Vesta

IRENE and EUNOMIA start February in Cancer. Following their January oppositions, they both fade during the month.

MELPOMENE is at opposition on February 1 at magniutde 9.4. It fades nearly a magnitude during the month.

AMPHITRITE, in Leo, is at opposition on February 23 at magnitude 9.1. At the end of February it will be less than 4° from Regulus.

 

Brian Loader.

 

 

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