February may be short, but it is not skimping on interesting things to see in the night sky for stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts. A comet opens the month with a bang, and a parade of planets will decorate the night sky throughout February.
Observing these planets and deep-sky objects on clear, dark nights will be more effective using a telescope or binoculars—like the smart telescope Stellina, and easy-to-use observation station that can be operated using smartphones and tablets. Al Sadeem Astronomy is the only distributor of this smart telescope here in the Middle East. You can place an order or inquiry here.
Check out the sky events for February 2022 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to help you plan your stargazing experience this month. All dates and times are in UAE Local Time (UTC+4).
Comet 19P/Borrelly at perihelion
After C/2021 A1 (Leonard)’s spectacular show in 2021 (and bidding adieu to us early January this year), another Jupiter-family comet is making an appearance in the night sky.
On February 2, Comet 19P/Borrelly will make its closest approach to the Sun, or perihelion, at a distance of 1.31AU or about 196 million km. According to NASA, it takes 6.9 years for Comet Borrelly to orbit the Sun once—so the last time this space rock came close to our star is in 2015.
Comets at perihelion are usually a delight to astronomy enthusiasts, professionals, and astrophotographers, because it means that comets will be brighter than usual. But seasoned observers would also know that comets are unpredictable; measuring the brightness at the time of closest approach to the Sun can be tricky because of how these comets are influenced by the Sun and other solar system dynamics.
With data from amateur astronomers observing the comet from different parts of the globe though, BAA Comet Section has estimated that Comet Borrelly may reach mag +9.0 at perihelion, “if its current level of activity remains constant,” explains In-the-Sky.org.
Planning on hunting the comet? Catch it around 7:03 P.M. at 54° above your south-western horizon in the constellation Pisces, until it sets at 11:13 P.M. Experts say it is not going to be visible to the naked eye, so have your medium-sized binoculars and telescope ready for this treat.
Conjunctions and Appulses
February 13: Venus-Mars Conjunction
Earth’s planetary neighbors Venus and Mars is going to rendezvous in the early morning sky, sharing the same right ascension (which makes it qualified to be called a conjunction, not an appulse) and separated about 6.5 degrees from each other in the early morning sky. That’s like the width of four fingers at an arm’s length.
Early risers can take delight on the pairing that will rise at 04:33 A.M., reaching its peak altitude of 23° above the south-eastern horizon until it gets drowned in the light of Sun as it breaks through the horizon at 06:41 A.M.
February 27: Moon-Venus-Mars Appulse
As February ends, the Waning Crescent Moon hangs out with planets Venus and Mars early in the morning at 04:03 A.M. The trio will be up in the sky until the sun breaks at 06:30 A.M.
February 12: Mercury at highest point in the sky
Planet Mercury reaches its highest point in the sky—reaching a maximum altitude of 18° above the horizon—but it will be tricky to observe here in the UAE. (See Fig. 1)
February 17: Mercury at greatest elongation west
Solar System’s smallest planet is best viewed when it is in its orbit that is farther from Sun—during greatest elongations. On February 17, Mercury will reach its greatest angular separation from the Sun—at 26.3 degrees, reaching its peak altitude of 14° above the horizon before fading from view at sunrise. (See Fig. 2) Observers who are into planetary imaging may have to rise up very early to catch Mercury, which will rise at 05:30 A.M. before it gets completely glared out of view by sunlight at 06:45 A.M.
February 9: Venus at its brightest
Earth’s twin planet Venus will brighten up the early morning sky at magnitude -4.6, and will be sitting comfortably in the constellation Sagittarius for the early risers to gaze upon. Catch it around four in the morning, until the Sun rises and takes over the sky.
February 28: Venus at highest point in the sky
February ends with Venus reaching its highest point in the sky at 04 A.M., approximately 32° above the horizon before fading from view at sunrise. It will be shining brightly at magnitude -4.4.
Sunrise and Sunset
|February 1||07:04 ↑||18:07 ↓|
|February 28||06:46 ↑||18:24 ↓|
|New Moon||February 1|
|1st Quarter||February 8|
|Full Moon||February 16|
|3rd Quarter||February 24|
- Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2022.html
- Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: https://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?month=2&year=2022&maxdiff=4#datesel
- Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, February 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=2&year=2022