Monthly Skywatchers' Page

For London and the UK

Sun And Nine Planets
The Sun and eight major planets (plus KBO Pluto) to scale. Earth is third planet from the left.


Introduction

The location of the stars and constellations can be learnt throughout a single year from books, mobile phone applications or planetarium software. Each month of the year, the same stars are visible from a given location. Different stars and constellations are visible as the year progresses. For example, in London, the constellation of Orion is always visible in the evenings of winter months of January and February. Scorpius is visible in the summer months of June and July around midnight.

The planets resemble stars except that, generally, they do not twinkle. Unlike the stars whose patterns are fixed, planets wander through the sky changing their positions amongst the starry background. This means that their periods of visibility change as the relative position of the Earth, Sun and planet vary. In one year Mars may be visible in August at midnight. In another year it may be behind the Sun and invisible from Earth during August.

This page gives the details of visibility for the five naked eye planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It also gives information about comets, meteor showers and non-regular phenomena like eclipses, transits and occultations.

The Observers' Glossary explains the terms used. Alternatively run the mouse cursor over terms in maroon.


The descriptions below are for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, especially London and the United Kingdom.
The planetary information is valid for any location at the same or similar Latitude (51.5°N).
Note that a degree in the sky is twice the apparent diameter of the Moon.

All times on this page are London (UK) times. This is normally GMT (Greenwich Mean Time also known as Universal Time).
In the United Kingdom, the clocks go forward by one hour for British Summer Time (BST) between mid March and late October.
A 24 hour clock is used so that 7pm is written 19:00.


February 2019

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury was in superior conjunction on 30 January. The planet then moves rapidly away from the Sun to become an evening object from the middle of the month.

This is the first of two evening appearances of the ellusive inner planet, Mercury, in 2019.

The planet will be seen low and to the left of the Western horizon setting nearly two hours after the Sun. Look for the planet about 40 minutes after sunset.

Mercury will be brighter at the beginning of its apparition, fading as it approaches the Earth but decreases its phase. The planet is at its greatest elongation (18 degrees) from the Sun on 27th.

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Venus

Venus

Venus is a brilliant morning object rising two and a half hours before the Sun among the stars of Sagittarius at the beginning of the month with the thin crescent Moon to its left.

Venus is to the left of Jupiter; the two planets continue moving apart.

Between 17th and 20th, Venus will pass very close to the fainter Saturn.

By the end of the month, Venus will be rising just an hour before the Sun and will be much harder to see.

Mars

Mars

Mars continues as an evening object shining with its distinctive red colour in the South after it gets dark. The planet continues fading as it moves away from the Earth and is now very star-like. Mars begins the month among the stars of Pisces moving into Aries on 13th.

Mars is moving towards the Sun which decreases its period of visibility; it is also moving northwards which increases the time it remains visible. For the fifth month running these two effects cancel each other out and the red planet continues setting around 11:30pm throughout the month.

Mars will be seen above the Moon on 10th.

Between 10th and 15th the red planet will be very close to the distant planet Uranus. The latter is not visible to the naked eye but can be seen with binoculars. The two planets will be at their closest on 12th and 13th (a couple of Moon widths apart).

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter is a morning object in Ophiuchus rising around 4am at the beginning of the month.

Jupiter can be found to the right of the more brilliant Venus throughout the month, the two planets moving apart during February.

On 27th the crescent Moon will be seen above the planet.

By the end of the month, Jupiter will be rising around 3am.

The red star close to Jupiter is Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius. Jupiter will remain close to this star throughout most of 2019.

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn now begins to emerge from the morning twilight but remains low during the month.

Look for the planet between 17th and 20th when the yellow star-like planet will be close to the more brilliant Venus.

On 28th the mornings sky will feature (from left to right): Venus, Saturn, the Moon and Jupiter.

Venus, Saturn, Moon, Jupiter
Looking South East at 06:15am on 28th.
From left to right - Venus, Saturn, the Moon and Jupiter.

Sun

The Sun

During February, the Sun continues to move northwards causing the length of day to increase from 9 hours 10 minutes to 10 hours 49 minutes, an increase of one hour and thirty nine minutes.

The time of midday is at its latest this month, around 10th. This has the effect of moving the daylight into the post Noon part of the day. The mornings remain darker than the evenings. For example, on 10th, the Sun rises at 07:13, giving 4 hours 47 minutes of daylight before 12:00. On the same day the Sun sets at 17:05. This gives 5 hours and 5 minutes of daylight after 12:00. This is 18 minutes more daylight in the afternoon than in the morning.

The Sun begins the month in Capricornus and enters Aquarius on 16th.

Note that the astronomical Zodiac dates (the actual Zodiac dates) do not tie in with astrology as astrologers are using dates from two thousand years ago.

Date Sunrise Midday Sunset Length of Day Sun's Noon Altitude Notes
31-Jan
07:40
12:13
16:47
09h 06m
21.2°
Moon close to Venus and Jupiter
01-Feb
07:29
12:14
16:49
09h 10m
21.4°
Moon close to Venus
02-Feb
07:27
12:14
16:51
09h 13m
21.7°
 
03-Feb
07:26
12:14
16:53
09h 16m
22.0°
 
04-Feb
07:24
12:14
16:54
09h 20m
22.3°
New Moon at 21:04
05-Feb
07:22
12:14
16:56
09h 23m
22.6°
 
06-Feb
07:20
12:14
16:58
09h 27m
22.9°
 
07-Feb
07:18
12:14
17:00
09h 30m
23.2°
5pm sunset
08-Feb
07:16
12:14
17:02
09h 34m
23.5°
 
09-Feb
07:15
12:14
17:04
09h 37m
23.9°
 
10-Feb
07:13
12:14
17:05
09h 41m
24.2°
Moon close to Mars
11-Feb
07:11
12:14
17:07
09h 45m
24.5°
 
12-Feb
07:09
12:14
17:09
09h 48m
24.8°
Evening Half Moon - Mars close to Uranus
13-Feb
07:07
12:14
17:11
09h 52m
25.2°
Mars close to Uranus
14-Feb
07:05
12:14
17:13
09h 56m
25.5°
 
15-Feb
07:03
12:14
17:15
09h 59m
25.8°
10 hour day
16-Feb
07:01
12:14
17:16
10h 03m
26.2°
 
17-Feb
06:59
12:14
17:18
10h 07m
26.5°
Venus close to Saturn
18-Feb
06:57
12:14
17:20
10h 11m
26.9°
Venus close to Saturn
19-Feb
06:54
12:14
17:22
10h 15m
27.2°
Full Moon at 15:54 (Leo) - Venus close to Saturn
20-Feb
06:52
12:14
17:24
10h 18m
27.6°
Venus close to Saturn
21-Feb
06:50
12:14
17:25
10h 22m
28.0°
 
22-Feb
06:48
12:14
17:27
10h 26m
28.3°
 
23-Feb
06:59
12:13
17:29
10h 30m
28.7°
 
24-Feb
06:57
12:13
17:31
10h 34m
29.1°
 
25-Feb
06:54
12:13
17:33
10h 38m
29.4°
 
26-Feb
06:52
12:13
17:34
10h 42m
29.8°
Morning Half Moon
27-Feb
06:50
12:13
17:36
10h 45m
30.2°
Moon close to Jupiter
28-Feb
06:48
12:13
17:38
10h 49m
30.6°
Moon close to Jupiter

Moon

The Moon

The Moon will be close to Venus on 1st.

The Moon will be close to Mars on 10th.

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 27h.

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 28th.


It is easy to depend on astronomy or CMMS software to perform daily computational activities and to keep track of data. Astronomy enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of software options, while facility managers may have fewer options if they require CMMS software for their business.


Next Month

Mars and Mercury in the evening. Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the morning. Equinox.


All times on this page are London (UK) times.

Sources: Astronomy Now magazine, Cybersky, Starry Night Pro, USA Naval Observatory and UK Nautical Almanac Office.

© 2018 KryssTal
All sky images by Starry Night Pro Plus 6
Eclipse predictions (maps) courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC


Books From Amazon.co.uk


Observers' Glossary

An explanation of the terms used by sky observers. Includes descriptions of how the objects of the solar system behave in the sky as seen from Earth (especially the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes).


KryssTal Related Pages

Tables and data about the Sun, Earth, Moon, planets, asteroids and comets. All terms used are explained.

An account of how various properties of stars can be measured by studying starlight. Includes brightness, distance, luminosity, temperature, mass, radius, density and an introduction to the H-R Diagram.

A table containing a list of the 20 brightest stars in the Earth's sky. Explanations of all the associated terms like magnitude, spectral type and radial velocity.

A detailed account about eclipses, transits and occultations. These are irregular phenomena that can be observed in the sky. Includes eclipse trips around the world with photos and well as photos of recent transists of Mercury and Venus.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in space. Distances in space are represented by the time light takes to travel there.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in time. The chronology of the Universe is compared to a real year.

How humanity came from believing Creation Myths to postulating the Inflationary Big Bang Theory. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people who broadened our understanding.

What do we mean by the words day, week, month, year? Who invented our calendar? When did the third millennium begin? The relation between time and astronomy.

The force that moves apples and planets. A short introduction to the ideas of Kepler and Newton that culminated with the theory of Universal Gravitation.

A look at the mathematics of a sphere with a section on sundials and the equation of time.


External Skywatching Links

These links will open in a separate window

StarDate Online
An excellent online skywatchers' magazine featuring detailed monthly information about astronomical events.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
A different image each day with an extensive archive and explanations.

Society for Popular Astronomy
Monthly planet and star gazing details with maps for young people.

Telescope House
A London based source of astronomical equipment, telescopes, software, maps and books.

Southern Sky Watch
Sky watchers information for the southern hemisphere.

Starry Night Pro
Superb planetarium software. Simulate the sky from anywhere on the Earth and any time.