February 2017 – Where to look for the planets
Use the finder charts on this page to guide you to where to look for the planets in February 2017.
A few pointers:
- All planets visible to the unaided eye look like stars. Planets visible to the unaided eye include Mercury, Venus, Earth (look down!), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
- In a telescope, Uranus and Neptune are visible as tiny discs. The dwarf planet Pluto remains looking like a star in even the largest amateur telescope.
- Stars are shown to magnitude 5 on the charts unless otherwise noted. This is a compromise between what you would see from the light polluted skies of a city (where you will see significantly less stars) and dark country skies (where you will see significantly more stars).
- Unless otherwise noted, the finder charts are prepared for the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The charts will be useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia.
- Chart times are given in AEST or Australian Eastern Standard Time. Remember to change for ‘Summer Time’ if this is in force in your location.
February – April 2017 ‘Amazing Space‘ student newsletter
Each term, I publish a free ‘Amazing Space!’ student newsletter. The newsletter’s content will vary but currently includes finder charts for planets visible to the unaided eye (in the early evening sky), where to look for easily recognisable constellations and Moon phases for the months of that term.
1 February 2017 – Moon, Venus, Mars and Uranus finder chart – Evening sky
11 and 12 February 2017 – Regulus lunar occultation – Late evening / early morning sky
On the late evening of Saturday 11 February 2017, the Moon will briefly move in front of the bright star Regulus. Astronomers call this event an occultation.
A lunar occultation is caused by the Moon moving in its orbit around the Earth. Early astronomers used observations of occultations to assist sailers with the navigation of the Earth’s oceans and map the height of lunar mountains.
The brightness of the Moon will make Regulus difficult to see. Binoculars will help you watch Regulus disappear and reappear. Start watching a few minutes before the specified occultation time. Times for other Australian locations can be found at http://tinyurl.com/hl6tnng.
15 February 2017 – Moon, Jupiter and Spica finder chart – Evening sky
21 February 2017 – Moon and Saturn finder chart – Early morning sky
27 February 2017 – Venus, Mars and Uranus finder chart – Early evening sky