New this month (1): Each planet now has daily ephemeris data showing its times above the horizon, when it is observable and right ascension & declination. Click on the tables for a full screen, printable image.
New this month (2): For fast access to your preferred planet, click on one of the links below. If you want a quick way to return to the list, click the ‘return to top’ link below each planet’s details.
The table below shows key data for the planets this month, including rise, transit and set times, as well as magnitude, apparent size and position data (right ascension and declination).
Events that occur when the sun is below the horizon are shown with a black background and white text. All other events happen when the sun is in the sky and other for not visible for observation.
February’s sky has slight improvements on January and gives the slightest hint of setting the scene for the planetary show to come in the summer this year. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are observable in the early morning sky by the end of this month, although all are far from their largest and brightest. Use February to sharpen your finding skills in time for better views to come.
Mercury and Venus are evening objects in Feb. Venus is up all month, and improving with each day so that we have a full 3 hours of viewing to enjoy. Mercury is fleeting, as ever, and can be seen in evening skies at the beginning of the month, when a solid hour of dusk viewing is possible, but always low on the horizon.
As was the case last month, none of the planets are visible at their highest (transit) but trust me, they are warming up for a spectacular performance to come.
There’s more detail on all the planets further down the page and the table below can be downloaded as a PDF from the Printables section.
All of the images below can be opened full screen in a new tab by clicking on them
Mercury begins the month low over the western horizon after sunset, shining bright at magnitude -0.9.
Mercury sinks lower ten days later and is on the border of not being spottable. This view is at 6:30pm.
By the 25th of Feb, Mercury is too close to the sun to be seen. It’ll reappear in the morning early in March.
Mercury can be spied in the first half of this month low towards the western horizon after sunset. It reaches greatest elongation on the night of the 9th of Feb, when it can be spied in the evening – for a short time – after the sunsets.
Venus has good visibility throughout February although it is distant and presenting a small disc. This image is 7pm.
Also at 7pm, you can see Venus rising higher above the west/southwest horizon and very bright at mag. -4.2.
By the last week of the month Venus is 30° above the horizon at 7pm, its disc having grown 2 arcseconds since the 5th of Feb.
February is the start of a great run of viewing for Venus. Already bright and unmistakable, it presents its disc after sunset for about two and a half hours. It’s a small disc of just 16-18 arcseconds this month, but it will grow to be twice that size over the next two months. Through February, the Venutian disc is about 70% illuminated, which you should see with a decent magnification in your telescope.
Mars is a morning object all month and best seen as close to dawn as possible. This is the view at 6am.
Little has changed ten days later. This view is also at 5:30am and shows Mars low over the southeast horizon.
Locate the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius and Mars glows just above the lid.
We are headed for a Martian spectacle later this year, but you wouldn’t think so observing the planet this month. It’s low above the pre-dawn horizon and has a disc just 5 arcseconds across, only marginally bigger than Uranus. It shines much more brightly than the more distant planet at magnitude 1.1 by month’s end. Catch it for around an hour of decent viewing from 5:30 am early in Feb and half an hour later than that at the end.
This view facing the southeast horizon shows Jupiter rising shortly before 6am.
Progress is slow in Feb and Jupiter doesn’t appear to have moved much by the middle of the month.
Our viewing window improves to over an hour from just after 5am in the last week of Feb.
Jupiter is another planet that promises much later in 2020 but is teasing us with very little right now. At the start of the month we have the meerest glimpse of this giant planet before sunrise begins to drown out the view. The end of the month is better, we’ll have over an hour of okay viewing above the southeast horizon from a little after 5am. Its disc is an already impressibve 33″ across (and will reach 48″ in July) so we should be picking up some detail but being near the horizon and bathed in dawn’s glow, it won’t be stunning.
Saturn breaks the horizon just half an hour before the sun, so viewing is not practical yet.
The situation has improved mid-month, but seeing is far from good. Best conditions are to come.
Our first proper chance to spy Saturn arrives at the end of the month. This is the view at 6am.
Saturn reappears in morning skies this month. Don’t get too excited though, there’s not going to be a lot to see just yet. Early in the month the ringed planet is still too close to our star to be found, even if technically it rising before the sun. However, as we draw close to the end of February, we’ll get our first proper glimpses in the hour before dawn breaks. Look low on the southeast horizon around 5:30am. And look forward to the progress of time, as Saturn becomes much better placed for observing over March and April.
Uranus is best viewed as soon as it’s dark this month. Here we can see it half way between horizon and overhead (zenith) at 7:30 in the evening.
Sadly, Neptune is nowhere near as visible as Uranus. Technically it is spotable – this picture shows it 12° above the horizon after sunset – but, in reality, it will be practically impossible.
Uranus still rides high this month, pick a moonless night to find it and look as soon after darkness falls as you can. Conversely, Neptune falls out of our night sky altogether this month. Brave and adventurous souls can try to pick it out of the late twilight sky but most of us are poised to wait for its return to the pre-dawn skies of April.
Planet ephemeris tables produced with the kind permission of Dominic Ford. Sky images are courtesy of SkySafari Pro 6.