What's Up for February Stargazing? Venus, Comet 45P and Asteroid Vesta Take the Spotlight
Stargazers will definitely enjoy the February skies, as a number of celestial bodies will be visible. It includes the planet Venus, comet 45P and asteroid Vesta.
The crescent moon, Mars, Uranus and Venus usher the month of February. Planet Venus has been visible in the past few months but this February, it will be the brightest in the sky.
"As Venus' illuminated crescent phase will thin, its apparent diameter increases," Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. "And Venus remains the same brightness all month long."
On top of Venus are Mars and Uranus that will also be visible this month. The good thing is that both planets and even Venus are visible by just using binoculars.
In addition, comet 45P is visible after sunset and can be viewed with just binoculars. The comet will make its closest approach to the planet on Feb. 11 with a distance of .08 astrological units (7.4 million miles) from Earth. The close approach coincidentally will occur at the same time with the month's full moon. Scientists and hobbyists anticipate the sighting because the next visible approach will occur in 2022.
However, Earthsky.org said it might be a bit difficult for the untrained eye to spot the comet, which is a faint object in the sky. Nevertheless, the use of binoculars and telescopes may help stargazers to see the object that has also increased illumination as it continues to approach the planet.
NASA also revealed that another comet will be visible this month called the comet 2P Encke. The returning comet just completed its 3.3-year orbit around the Sun. It can be spotted by looking at constellation Pisces. The comet will be visible the whole month until early March using binoculars.
And as if these are not enough, the brightest comet Vesta is still visible in the February sky. It is located near the stars Castor and Pollux.