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What's In The Sky? — February 2021

Clear February nights present some great stargazing opportunities. Be sure to bundle up and keep warm while you get outside for some stargazing fun!

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter
On February 11th there is a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in the early morning just before sunrise. With a separation of 0.5 degrees, the pair will be close enough together to fit into the field of view of most telescopes around 75x-100x magnification. Plus with Saturn still nearby, it's a great morning for planetary viewing. Get up early, find a clear southeastern horizon, and see if you can get a good view before sunrise!

New Moon
Not an early riser? February 11th is also the date of the new Moon this month, so that night is a great time for viewing deep sky objects with minimal light pollution.

Binocular Targets
Astronomy isn't always about how much gear you have! Grab some astro binoculars and check out the night sky without a lot of equipment. The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is high in the sky in the evening right now, with the Pleiades (M45) higher up. Both make great targets for almost any binocular!

Bright Galaxies
In late February, bright galaxies M81 & M82 will be about as high in the sky as they will get for North American stargazers. From a dark sky site, these galaxies are visible with a 50mm or larger binocular, but we suggest you use a large telescope to chase these galaxies down just off the leading edge of the Big Dipper asterism. Many observers consider M81 & M82 the best pairing of visual galaxies in the sky!


Bonus feature: Our resident imaging expert/YouTube star Ken provided a great Ha-LRGB shot of M82 taken last week, so if your weather won't cooperate this month you can still see M82 at least!

Midnight Spirals
Some galaxies for the night owls, the Sombrero Galaxy (M104) and the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) are some nice spiral galaxies that are both visible after midnight in February. The spiral arms of M51 can be glimpsed under dark skies with a 4.5" telescope, but will have more definition in larger telescopes. M104 is similar, it is visible in a 4" size telescope, but to distinguish the central "bulge" an 8" or larger instrument is required.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.