Observing the Night Sky: What to Look Out for in February 2024

Stargazing, a beloved pastime for many, often requires careful planning due to obstacles such as hectic schedules, light pollution, and weather conditions. This guide provides an overview of what celestial objects are visible in the night sky for northern hemisphere observers, with a primary focus on events visible from the UK.

The guide uses Universal Time (UT) and British Summer Time (BST) for time references. It also uses Right Ascension (RA) and declination (dec.) for coordinates, which are the celestial equivalents of longitude and latitude. These allow you to pinpoint the location of an object in the night sky.

Notable astronomy highlights for February include the visibility of comet 62P/Tsuchinshan on the 7th, the waxing crescent Moon near Jupiter on the 14th & 15th, and Venus and Mars lying only 38-arcminutes apart on the 22nd.

Another noteworthy event is the appearance of the star Spica, just 1° from the center of a 65%-lit waning gibbous Moon at dawn on February 1st. The waning crescent Moon will be near Venus in the dawn twilight on February 7th, although this might be a bit challenging to spot due to the low altitude of both objects.

Orion, the Hunter, is a prominent constellation in the February night sky. Its belt can guide stargazers to Sirius, the brightest night star, also known as the Dog Star. Sirius has a white dwarf companion, the Pup Star (Sirius B), which orbits Sirius A, the bright component visible to the naked eye.

The article further provides a detailed night-by-night guide for February 2024, mentioning various celestial events including the proximity of comet 144P/Kushida to the star Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri) in Taurus on the nights of 9/10 and 10/11 February. The Cancer–Hydra border will be highly visible in the approach to midnight on February 12th, offering a chance to spot familiar targets like M67, as well as some tougher finds.

For those interested in stargazing, guides and tips are available on different platforms. Beginners are advised to use telescopes and follow guides on astronomy. Additionally, signing up for newsletters like the BBC Sky at Night Magazine e-newsletter can provide weekly tips and updates.

In conclusion, stargazing can be a rewarding experience, made even better with the right knowledge and tools. This guide aims to provide stargazers with the necessary information to fully enjoy the celestial events of February 2024.

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