As we head into the second month of 2023 and the last month of winter, we will start to see the days get noticeably longer. The sun sets at 18:00 by the end of the month, which still leaves plenty of time to get out and look at the sky without staying up late. Clear nights can still very cold in February though. Make sure and look out for a nice conjunction between the Moon, Venus and Jupiter on 22nd February.
Sun and Moon
|Date||Sunrise (Irish Time)||Sunset (Irish Time)|
Mercury is visible in the morning sky this month but it is not very well placed and unlikely to be seen.
Venus is back in the evening sky and is now hard to miss after sunset. Look for once the sun has set in the west. it will be the first start to appear close to the horizon and will be significantly brighter than anything else. Towards the end of February, Jupiter and Venus get close together. On the evening of 22 February they are joined by the crescent Moon.
Mars is up most of the night during February. It is starting to dim as it is moving away from Earth but will still stand out as a salmon colour star high in the south.
Jupiter is past it’s best during this observation window and during it will get lower in the sky during February. Towards the end of the month it will be close to the planet Venus which will make for a very nice sight. Especially on the 22nd when the crescent Moon is nearby.
Too close to the Sun to be visible.
Stars and Constellations
The above sky chart, from heavens-above.com is for 23:00 on 15/02/2023. You can click on the chart to open a new tab and bring you to Heavens Above. On this website you can generate a custom chart for the time and date you wish. The winter constellations are prominent as the night sets in, but are starting to be replaced by the spring constellations.
Visible in the west will be Orion (the hunter). Most people are somewhat familiar with this constellation and will be able to pick out Orion’s belt. You may also be able to pick out the Orion nebula just below the Orion’s belt. If you start from here and make a line using the 3 stars of the belt you can follow them down to a bright star called Sirius. Sirius is in the constellation of Cannis Major (the dog). This is actually the brightest star in the sky and is really beautiful.
If you follow the line of the belt in the other direction you will come to a red star called Aldebaran. This is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus (the bull) which has a distinctive “V” shape. Continuing along this line we come to a misty patch of stars called Pleiades or M45. This is a star forming region 1,344 lightyears away.
Above this is the constellation of Gemini (the twins), Auriga (the charioteer) and Perseus. To the northwest are Cepheus (the house), Cassiopeia (the queen), Andromeda and Pegasus (the flying horse). Andromeda is the location of the Andromeda galaxy which is the furthest object that can be seen with the naked eye. Although, you will need very dark skies to see it. Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxy are headed for a collision and will collide in an estimated 4.5 billion years.
In the west at this time of year you’ll find the constellation of Pisces (the fish) and Aquarius (the water bearer). Mars is also in this area of the sky. Over in the south and east we have the spring constellations rising. You will see Leo (the lion) and the plough is now rising higher in the sky. Taking the curve of the handle of the plough and following it toward the eastern horizon will bring you to a bright red star called Aldebaran. This is the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes. Although this constellation represents a herdsman it actually looks more like a kite. It’s always nice to see this constellation appearing. It will be high in the sky in the summer and is a sign that we are heading out of winter and into spring.