Find out what to go out and look at this month
In the morning twilight, Mercury can be found low in the east with Venus and Mars. Mercury will move from the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer) to the constellation of Capricornus (The Sea-Goat) in the middle of the month and it will also have its greatest elongation in the East on the 17th of February, it will begin to make its way back towards the Sun from that day. Venus can be found in the morning twilight in the constellation of Scutum (The Shield) at the beginning of the month where it will rise at 03:32 am (AWST). It will then move into the constellation of Sagittarius as it gradually draws closer to Mars throughout the month and by the end of February it will rise at 02:47 am (AWST).
Mars is also in the constellation of Sagittarius during February. It can be found low in the early morning Eastern sky where it will rise at 02:47 am (AWST) at the beginning of the month and by the end of February, it will 02:47 am (AWST). Jupiter is very low in the early evening western sky in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Bearer) at the start of the month, but it will disappear into the twilight just after the first week of February leaving all the planetary action to the morning sky.
Uranus can be found in the evening sky in the constellation of Aries (The Ram). At the beginning of February, Uranus will set at 11:27 am (AWST) and by the end of the month, it will set at 09:43 pm (AWST). Neptune will be viewable as well in the evening between the constellation of Aquarius and the constellation of Pisces (The Fish). At the start of February, Neptune will set at 09:12 pm (AWST) and at the end of the month, it will be lost to the Sun’s glare.
Conjunctions And Occultations:
Conjunctions involve object(s) in the Solar System and/or more distant objects, such as a star. It’s an apparent phenomenon in which multiple objects which aren’t close together appear close in the sky and it’s caused by the observer’s perspective. An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.
- 09/02/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Aldebaran and the Pleiades Cluster (Where to look)
- 13/02/22 – Conjunction of Mercury, Venus and Mars (Where to look)
- 13/02/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Castor and Pollux (Where to look)
- 16/02/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Regulus and Al Jabhah (Where to look)
- 20/02/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)
- 27/02/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Venus and Mars (Where to look)
- 28/02/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Venus and Mars (Where to look)
Things To Look At This Month:
The Orion Nebula:
The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula situated north of Orion’s Belt (In the southern hemisphere) in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae in our skies and is visible to the naked eye. Messier 42, as it’s also called, is located at a distance of 1,344 light-years away from our Solar System and is estimated to be 24 light-years across. The nebula has revealed much about the process of how stars and planetary systems are formed from collapsing clouds of gas and dust.
Messier 46 is an unusual open star cluster in that it appears to have a planetary nebula (NGC2438) embedded in it. The cluster is about 40 light-years across and located some 5,500 light-years away from Earth. There are an estimated 500 stars in the cluster, and most are around 300 million years old — very young for stars. While the planetary nebula appears to lie within M46, it is most likely unrelated to the cluster as it doesn’t share the cluster’s radial velocity. The star of this planetary nebula is a white dwarf with a surface temperature of about 74,700°C which makes it’s one of the hottest stars known to us.
Eta Carinae And The Carina Nebula:
Variable brightness and Colour, Eta Carinae is one of the most remarkable stars in the heavens. When we say “Eta Carinae” we refer to the star itself which for Perth is a circumpolar star (We see the star all year round) and not the nebula.
Eta Carinae is 100 times the Sun’s mass and 4 million times brighter, this brightness has been unstable with the star being recorded over the past 300 years between magnitude -0.8 which is as bright as Canopus and +7.9. It’s a star that’s sometimes in the news as it’s expected to become a supernova within the next 1 million years and will be a spectacular sight when it occurs, being visible by day and possibly bright enough to read by at night.
Eta Carinae is very likely a binary star with the smaller partner orbiting in a highly elliptical orbit of 5.5 years. The Carina Nebula (NGC 3372), which surrounds Eta Carinae, is a large, bright star-formation region that has produced several very massive stars including Eta Carinae. At around 260 light-years the Carina Nebula is around 7 times the size of the Great Orion Nebula, but due to its greater distance, it only spans twice the width. There are many O-type stars, young (~2 million years), hot and bright that energise the entire Eta Carinae nebulae.
The Southern Pleiades (IC 2602) is an open cluster in the constellation of Carina. It’s named the Southern Pleiades because of its resemblance to the Pleiades Cluster (Messier 45) which can be found in the constellation of Taurus. The open cluster was discovered by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751 while observing in South Africa.
Easily seen with the naked eye, it’s is one of the closest to us at a distance of 547 light-years and it’s 8 light-years across. There are about 60 stars in total in the cluster and they are estimated to be about 13.7 million years old.