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.