February Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, February Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Aries, Pisces

Comet Journals 

Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period 9th magnitude comet in Scorpius which will reach perihelion on February 14, 2024 at about 8th magnitude and will be brightest on March 1 in Serpens Cauda. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14 then heads back into outer space as in leaves the Solar System.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinsham 1 2023, a short period (6.67 years) comet at 8th magnitude in Virgo, passed through perihelion on Christmas and was closest to Earth on Dec 30. It will exit Virgo by late summer.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is an enormous periodic comet which visits every 71 years. It is at 7th magnitude moving slowly through Cygnus. Perihelion passage is April 21. It may be visible near the Sun during the total eclipse on the 8th. Closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) is on June 2 when it may reach naked eye visibility.

Mars Landers

After 71 successful flights during its almost 1000 days on Mars, Ingenuity, the helicopter accompanying and scouting for the Perseverance Rover, temporarily lost radio contact with the rover during a recent flight. Communication was re-established and ground controllers received imagery showing damage to Ingenuity’s rotor blade, preventing further flight. Meanwhile, the rover completed exploration of the river delta on the edge of Jezero Crater. The crater, formed by impact almost 4 billion years ago, is floored by igneous rock crystallized from magma and/or lava. Over 100’s of millions of years, the igneous rock was covered by younger river deposits which, in turn, are beneath even younger salt rich mudstones deposited in a lake possibly exceeding a depth of 100 feet and width of 22 miles. The river delta on the edge of the crater is covered by boulders carried from outside the crater by raging torrents. The chemistry of the rocks and sediments in the crater and the collected 23 rock samples reveals environmental conditions favorable for life for an extended length of time. No direct fossil evidence for life was found.

Meteor Showers

February has no significant meteor showers. The Delta Leonids are a minor shower on the 15th typically displaying only 2 meteors per hour in dark skies. With the scarcity of meteor showers, dark sky locations may reveal a cone of brighter sky extending upward from the sunset direction. This “zodiacal light” is sunlight reflected by debris scattered along our orbit from ancient comet and asteroid passages and possibly even including debris left over from the primeval collision that created the Moon. Reflection from these remnants were probably viewed by mammoths & saber tooth tigers, dinosaurs, and even the first lobe-finned fish departing the oceans for a future life on the land!

Planet Plottings

Inner rocky terrestrial planets dominate the eastern sky in predawn hours in February. Mercury (-0.2 to -1.6) moves through Sagittarius, Capricornus, and Aquarius; Venus (-3.9 to  -3.8) and Mars (1.3) visit Sagittarius and Capricornus. Following sunset, western skies display the outer gas giants, Jupiter (-2.2 to -2.0) in Aries, Saturn (1.0) in Aquarius, Uranus (5.7 to 5.8) in  Aries, and Neptune (7.9 to 8.0) in Pisces. 

In February, Mercury, Mars, and Venus are diving eastward into the glow of sunrise with Mercury leading the way. Venus moves faster than Mars during the month, passing it on the 22nd. On the 1st, Venus rises 2 hours before the Sun, trailed by Mars and Mercury, respectively 45 minutes and an hour later. By month’s end, Mars will rise 1 hour, 45 minutes before the Sun, with Venus 12 minutes later. Mercury rises with the Sun when reaching solar conjunction on the 28th. Saturn and Neptune are early evening planets in the western sky. Saturn sets about an hour after the Sun and Neptune follows a little over an hour later. Uranus and Jupiter are high in the southwestern sky after sunset




Planet Passages






New Moon

5:59PM EST



Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius

-0.2 to -1.6

Superior Conjunction

4:00AM EST



Sagittarius, Capricornus

-3.9 to -3.8

Mars, 0.6°S

11:00AM EST



Sagittarius, Capricornus


Venus, 0.6°N

11:00AM EST




-2.2 to -2.0




Solar Conjunction

4:00PM EST 2/28


5.7 to 5.8



7.9 to 8.0

  • February Moon

February’s New Moon is in Aquarius on the 9th at 5:59PM EST. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1251 which ends 29.46 days later with the New Moon of March in Aquarius on the 10th at 5:01AM EST. 

The Full Moon on the 24th occurs at 7:31AM EST in Leo. It is called the Snow, Hunger, or Wolf Moon. Colonial Americans named it the “Trapper’s Moon”. To the Celts it was the “Ice Moon”, and the Chinese refer to it as the “Budding Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Storm Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Namebini-giizis” (Suckerfish Moon). Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people respectively recognize the 2nd Moon of the year as “Mkwa-giizis” (Bear Moon) in the eastern dialect and Namebini-giizis” (Suckerfish Moon) in the western dialect. Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. “The second moon of Creation is Bear Moon, when we honour the vision quest that it began in the fall. During this time, we discover how to see beyond reality and to communicate through energy rather than sound.”

Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 10th when the Moon is at 222,506 mi. (56.46 Earth radii) at 1:53PM EST. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on February 25 at 9:49AM EST when the Moon’s distance is 252,470 mi. (64.07 Earth radii).                                                       

The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Venus on the 7th, and Mars and Mercury on the 8th. The waxing crescent passes Saturn on the 10th, Neptune on the 12th, and Jupiter and Uranus on the 15th.




Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aquarius


5:59PM EST, 2/9 New 0 Days
Mercury Capricornus


3.0°S, 5:20PM EST, 2/8 Waning Crescent 28.43 Days
Venus Sagittarius


5.0°S, 2:00PM EST, 2/7 Waning Crescent 26.29 Days
Mars Sagittarius


4.0°S, 2:00AM EST, 2/8 Waning Crescent 27.79 Days
Jupiter Aries


3.0°N, 3:00AM EST, 2/15 Waxing Crescent 5.38 Days
Saturn Aquarius


1.8°S, 8:00PM EST, 2/10 Waxing Crescent 1.08 Days
Uranus Aries


3.0°N, 9:00PM EST, 2/15 Waxing Crescent 6.13 Days
Neptune Pisces


0.7° S, 2:00AM EST, 2/12 Waxing Crescent 2.33 Days