Orion Battles the Bull

Chart 1

Planets in February

The morning planets are now seen before dawn. We can see all five naked-eye planets up to February 20 after which Mercury begins to slide back into the solar glare. Alignments such as this are a semi-hot topic in the media. The usual questions I have been asked are: “what is the significance behind this alignment” or “will the gravitational pull affect the Earth”, etc. There is no scientific merit behind this gathering of the planets. It does, however, spark the curiosity for people to wake up a bit earlier than usual to witness this lovely morning portrait. I use the word “gathering” loosely as when all five are visible, the scene stretches across half the sky. Over the course of the night, the planets rise at different times. On February 1, Jupiter rises at 8:35 p.m. local time, then Mars at 1:11 a.m., Saturn at 3:35 a.m., brilliant Venus at 5:41 a.m. and finally elusive Mercury at 5:59 a.m. The waning crescent moon will also be visible in the morning sky passing each planet. On February 2, the 37% moon will lie exactly between Mars and Saturn.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Twitter: @astroeducator

Note – this article represents my tenth year writing the Sky This Month.

eNews date: 
Sunday, January 31, 2016