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What's in the Sky - February 2023

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

Here are a few of Orion's top picks for February stargazing:

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is closest to Earth on February 1. Look high above the northern horizon in the constellation of Camelopardalis in the evening after dark, and use a pair of binoculars for the best view. This is the closest this particular comet has come to earth in 50,000 years!

New Moon
February 19 should be one of the best nights for deep-sky viewing as the New Moon phase will provide the darkest night of the short month. Use Orion SkyGlow Broadband Filters to enhance your view.

Pretty Pairings
On February 21 and 22 an hour after sunset in the southwest the threesome of our Moon, Venus and Jupiter are together, showing off the three brightest solar system objects after our Sun. Watch Venus and Jupiter grow closer daily until they are in conjunction on March 1.

Everyone loves seeing a Supermoon, when Luna is full and closest to Earth. On February 5 though, Full Moon occurs at lunar apogee; its farthest distance from us, at 404,000 km. Can you tell the difference in apparent size?

Zodiacal Light
Starting on February 22 the zodiacal light is visible in the evening from a dark sky. Look to the western horizon as dusk transitions to darkness, about an hour and a half to two hours after sunset, to see its upward pointing triangular glow. Make sure to try this before the Moon phase gets large enough to wash out drown out this event.

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

February Challenge Object
In the constellation Monoceros lies the 9th magnitude Hubble's Variable Nebula (NGC 2261), named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble (yes, the same as the Hubble Telescope). While small, this distant reflection nebula is bright enough to be picked out as a pin point of light with 70mm binoculars. As the name implies, it does vary in size and brightness since its glow is "powered" by a variable star buried within its nebulosity.

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.