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.


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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 2017

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury is too close to the Sun to be visible from London.

Venus

Venus

Venus is a brilliant object visible in the South West after sunset. The planet sets more than four hours after sunset at the beginning of February.

On 1st the crescent Moon will be visible to the left of Venus. On 28th, the Moon will be below the planet.

Venus will dominate the evening sky throughout the month reaching its greatest brilliancy on 18th when it will shine 16 times brighter than the brightest star.

By the end of the month Venus will be moving back in towards the Sun and will be setting three and a half hours after the Sun.

Venus is among the stars of Pisces and remains close to the fainter but distinctly red-coloured Mars throughout the month.

Mars

Mars

Mars is an evening object visible in the Southern skies among the stars of Pisces setting after 9:30pm throughout the month.

The planet continues to move Northwards and its motion against the background stars is apparent from night to night.

On 1st the Moon will be seen close to Mars.

Throughout February Venus will be located to the right of the fainter Mars but the two planets will be moving apart.

On 27th Mars will pass very close to the planet Uranus which is not visible to the naked eye but may be spotted through binoculars or on a photographic image of the region.

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter now rises before midnight among the stars of Virgo. The planet is above that constellation's brightest star, Spica.

Jupiter is close to the Moon on 15th and 16th.

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn is a morning object rising around 4:30am at the beginning of the month. By the end of February the planet will be rising before 3:30.

Saturn is among the stars of Ophiuchus. Look for the planet below the crescent Moon on 21st.

Through a telescope the magnificent rings are easy to see and this year they are at an open angle. If you have access to a telescope, use the Moon to locate Saturn and look at it through a telescope on a clear night. The sight of the rings is one of the best views in the sky. During 2017, we are looking down onto the planet's North Pole so the rings appear to be wide open. The rings are open wide every fifteen years.

Sun

The Sun

During February, the Sun continues to move northwards causing the length of day to increase from 9 hours 11 minutes to 10 hours 51 minutes, an increase of one hour and forty minutes.

The time of midday is at its latest this month, on 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 07:23, giving 4 hours 37 minutes of daylight before 12:00. On the same day the Sun sets at 17:07. This gives 5 hours and 7 minutes of daylight after 12:00. This is thirty 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 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
01-Feb
07:39
12:14
16:50
09h 11m
21.6°
Moon close to Mars
02-Feb
07:37
12:14
16:52
09h 15m
21.9°
 
03-Feb
07:35
12:14
16:54
09h 18m
22.2°
 
04-Feb
07:34
12:14
16:56
09h 21m
22.5°
Evening Half Moon
05-Feb
07:32
12:15
16:58
09h 25m
22.8°
 
06-Feb
07:30
12:15
16:59
09h 28m
23.1°
 
07-Feb
07:29
12:15
17:01
09h 32m
23.4°
 
08-Feb
07:27
12:15
17:03
09h 36m
23.7°
 
09-Feb
07:25
12:15
17:05
09h 39m
24.0°
 
10-Feb
07:23
12:15
17:07
09h 43m
24.3°
Latest time of midday
11-Feb
07:22
12:15
17:09
09h 46m
24.7°
Full Moon at 00:33 - Penumbral Eclipse
12-Feb
07:20
12:15
17:10
09h 50m
25.0°
 
13-Feb
07:18
12:15
17:12
09h 54m
25.3°
 
14-Feb
07:16
12:15
17:14
09h 57m
25.7°
 
15-Feb
07:14
12:15
17:16
10h 01m
26.0°
Moon close to Jupiter
16-Feb
07:12
12:15
17:18
10h 05m
26.4°
Moon close to Jupiter - Sun "enters" Aquarius
17-Feb
07:10
12:14
17:19
10h 09m
26.7°
 
18-Feb
07:08
12:14
17:21
10h 13m
27.1°
Morning Half Moon - Venus at its Greatest Brilliancy
19-Feb
07:06
12:14
17:23
10h 16m
27.4°
20-Feb
07:04
12:14
17:25
10h 20m
27.8°
 
21-Feb
07:02
12:14
17:27
10h 24m
28.1°
Moon close to Saturn
22-Feb
07:00
12:14
17:29
10h 28m
28.5°
 
23-Feb
06:58
12:14
17:30
10h 32m
28.9°
 
24-Feb
06:56
12:14
17:32
10h 36m
29.2°
 
25-Feb
06:54
12:13
17:34
10h 39m
29.6°
 
26-Feb
06:52
12:13
17:36
10h 43m
30.0°
New Moon at 14:58 - Annular Eclipse (not UK)
27-Feb
06:50
12:13
17:37
10h 47m
30.4°
Mars close to Uranus (not naked eye)
28-Feb
06:48
12:13
17:39
10h 51m
30.7°
Moon close to Venus

Moon

The Moon

The Moon will be close to Mars on 1st.

The Moon will pass "over" the Hyades star cluster on 5th.

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 15th and 16th.

The Moon will be close to Saturn on 21st.

The Moon will be close to Venus on 28th.

This month's Full Moon occurs on 11th. There will be a penumbral eclipse as the Moon will pass close to the Earth's shadow (without entering it). Keen eyed observers may notice that the Full Moon is slightly darkened on its upper regions for about 15 minutes at around 11:44.


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

Venus, Mercury and Mars in the evening. 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.

© 2017 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.