Mars passes Uranus on February 12. At the beginning of the month, Mars is over 7 degrees to the lower right of the dimmer outer planet this evening. If you’ve never seen the planet Uranus, Mars provides a way to see it. Uranus appears as a dim bluish or greenish star.
The second brighter star in this image is Hamal, the brightest star in Aries.
Unless you live under dark skies, you’ll need a binocular or small telescope to see it. It is near the star Omicron Piscium, a dimmer star in the constellation Pisces. It is cataloged by the Greek letter Omicron (ο). (It might be necessary to download the image above and magnify it to see Omicron and Uranus. The planet appears in this image as it is a 10-second exposure.)
This article provides more details about the location of Uranus and the track that Mars follows beginning February 6. Happy planet chasing!
The moon appears near the planet Saturn on the mornings of February 1 and February 2.
Here are the highlights of the mornings:
February 1: About 45 minutes before sunrise, Saturn, the crescent moon (26.5 days old — past the New phase, 10% illuminated), brilliant Morning Star Venus, and bright Jupiter span nearly 27° in the southeast. Saturn is only 7° up in the southeast. The planets and moon are nearly equally spaced, about 9° apart. Watch Venus continue to separate from Jupiter and close in on Saturn. The Venus – Saturn conjunction occurs on February 18. This morning the gap is 18.5°.
February 2: At 45 minutes before sunrise, the very thin waning crescent moon (27.5 days old, 5% illuminated), 5° up in the southeast, is about 3° to the lower left of Saturn. The Venus – Saturn gap is nearly 167°. The Venus – Jupiter gap continues to grow, over 10° this morning, widening to over 15° on February 12.
The waning crescent moon, 23.4 days old — past the New phase — and 33% illuminated, enters the photographic frame this morning as it approaches Jupiter and brilliant Morning Star Venus. The moon, overexposed in the image, is over 18 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter. The next few mornings, the moon passes Jupiter and Venus.
Venus passed Jupiter a week ago. This morning Venus is nearly 8 degrees from the Giant Planet. Venus is heading toward a conjunction with Saturn on February 18.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines from the southeastern sky this morning during twilight. It is over 5 degrees to the left of Jupiter. Venus passed Jupiter nearly a week ago and the gap widens each morning. Venus is heading toward a conjunction with Saturn next month.
This morning Jupiter is nearly 9 degrees to the left of the star Antares that represents the “heart” of the Scorpion.
This morning, the Last Quarter moon is outside the frame, nearly 11 degrees to the left of the star Spica. It is headed toward displays with Jupiter and Venus in a few days.
After its close opposition last summer, Mars has faded in brightness. It is now in the western sky after sunset. It passes the planet Uranus on February 12. Uranus’ brightness is at the limit of eyesight. With most of the population living near bright street lights, a binocular is needed to locate the planet. Those living in rural areas can find it without optical assistance by staying outside long enough for their eyes to see the dimmest stars.
At the end of evening twilight, Mars is “that bright star” about halfway up in the west-southwest. It is west of the bright stars of Winter that are now dominating the southern sky. Each night Mars is farther east when compared to the distant starry background as it moves through the dim stars of Pisces. The brightest star in the region is Omicron Piscium, mostly indistinct to the unaided eye. Uranus is to the upper right of that star, but do not confuse it with 54 Ceti that is nearly the same brightness and color as Uranus.
The chart above shows Mars’ path beginning on February 6, when it is 4° from Uranus. The gap closes each night: Feb. 7, 3.5°; Feb 8, 2.9°; Feb 9, 2.3°; Feb. 10, 1.8°; and Feb. 11, 1.2°.
The crescent moon (6.2 days past its New phase, 31% illuminated) passes about 6° to the lower left of Mars on February 10. By this date, if you’ve not located the marching Mars, guidance from the moon’s location will help.
Mars passes 1° to the upper right of Uranus on February 12. After this date, Mars separates: Feb. 13, 1.1°; Feb. 14, 2°.
Take a look to locate Uranus, one of the planets that is not easy to locate because it is dim. Mars passing by makes it easier to locate.
Brilliant Morning Star Venus continues to dazzle the pre-sunrise sky in the southeast. Earlier this week, Venus passed Jupiter. This morning they are over 4 degrees apart as Venus heads toward a conjunction with Saturn next month. The star Antares is over 8 degrees to the right of Jupiter. This morning, the gibbous moon is outside the frame. It is headed toward displays with Jupiter and Venus next week.
The brilliant morning star Venus shines from the southeast this morning with Jupiter about 3.6 degrees to its right. The gibbous moon is in the western sky. Venus continues to move eastward rapidly toward a conjunction with Saturn next month.