Feburary Moon & Planet data for 2014

The Solar System in February 2014

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      January  31 at 10.38 am (Jan 30, 21:38 UT)
First quarter: February  7 at  8.22 pm (Feb  6, 19:22 UT)
Full moon:     February 15 at 12.53 pm (Feb 14, 23:53 UT)
Last quarter   February 23 at  6.15 am (Feb 22, 17:15 UT)
New moon:      March 1      at 9.00 pm (Mar  1, 08:00 UT)

There is no New moon during February 2014.

The Planets in February

Apart from Jupiter, the major planets are best viewed in the morning sky during February.

MERCURY starts the month as an evening object, setting about 45 minutes after the Sun. As a consequence it will be too low for observing in the evening twilight.

The planet reaches inferior conjunction with the Sun on February 16 when the planet will be 0.646 AU, 96.7 million km, from the Earth and 0.34 AU, 51.7 million km from the Sun. From the position of the Earth, Mercury will appear to pass 3.7° north of the Sun.

After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object. The possibilities of viewing the planet by the end of the month are better due to the steep angle at which it rises. On the 28th it will rise about 100 minutes before the Sun and be some 8° above the horizon 50 minutes before sunrise. Look for the planet a little to the south of east. The crescent moon, less than 4% lit, will be 3° to the left of Mercury on that morning.

VENUS is in the morning sky moving away from the Sun and so higher into the morning sky. On the 1st it will rise just under 2 hours before the Sun. 30 minutes before sunrise the planet will be about 14° above the horizon a little to the south of east. By the end of February, Venus will rise an hour earlier and be 30° up half an hour before sunrise. At magnitude -4.6 it will be an easy object.

On the morning of the 26th the 17.8% lit moon will be 6° above Venus. An occultation of Venus by the moon is visible along a broad band from equatorial Africa to India, most of the southeast Asian countries and central China.

MARS will become visible in the later evening sky during February. It rises just before midnight on the 1st, advancing to a little after 10 pm by the 28th. During the month Mars’ magnitude brightens from 0.2 to -0.5. The planet will be a few degrees from Spica throughout the month, the two are closest on the morning if the 4th when they are 4.6° apart.

The planet and star are joined by the moon on the night of 19/20 February. In the late evening the 82% lilt moon will 6° from Mars and 3° from Spica. The following morning the moon, now 80 % lit, will be 2° from Spica and 4° from Mars.

SATURN rises about 1 am on the 1st and about 11.15 pm on the 28th. The planet will be in Libra. On the morning of the 22nd the 61% lit, waning, moon will be 3° from Saturn. A few hours later, well after sunrise, the moon will occult Saturn as seen from New Zealand. The planet will disappear behind the lit limb of the moon about 12.15 pm and reappear some 40 minutes later. Actual times will vary considerably in different parts of NZ. The event may be visible through a medium sized telescope. Anyone wishing to attempt to view the occultation needs to obtain precise local predictions of the times. These can be obtained using the Occult program written by Dave Herald.

JUPITER is the only major planet visible throughout the evening during February. It rises before sunset and sets well after midnight. On the 1st the planet transits and so is at its highest to the north a little before midnight. On the 28th transit is about 9.45 pm. Jupiter is on the part of the ecliptic well north of the equator so is at the altitude of the winter Sun.

On the 11th, the 89% moon, 3 days before full, will be 4.8° from Jupiter.

Outer Planets

Uranus remains in Pisces during February. It will set a little after 11 pm on the 1st and around 9.30 pm on the 28th. Particularly by the latter date, the planet will be very low in the sky as the sky darkens following sunset. So observation will be difficult. The planet is in Pisces.

Neptune is at conjunction with the Sun on the 24th, so will be too close to the Sun to observe during February. The planet is in Aquarius.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta remain as a pair of close objects near Mars, best seen in the morning sky. Spica, Mars, Vesta and Ceres are almost in line and in that order. On the 1st Vesta is at magnitude 7.2, Ceres 8.2. Vesta will be 7° from Mars and 4.2° from Vesta. By the 28th the magnitudes of the two asteroids are 6.6 and 7.8, with Vesta now 8.5° from Mars and 3.3° from Vesta.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra at the beginning of February. At magnitude 7.3 it is almost as bright as Vesta. Towards the end of February, Pallas starts to cross a corner of Sextans. On February 28th the asteroid, now magnitude 7.0, will be 4° from alpha Hya, magnitude 2.0. Earlier in mid February, Pallas makes a close pass of upssilon1 Hya, magnitude 4.1. The two are 22’ apart on the night of the 14/15 February. Pallas will be the closest binocular object to the star, making its detection fairly easy.

Brian Loader

The follwing table lists various solar system object events during February. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

February 1 Mercury 3.9 degrees south of the Moon
Neptune 4.9 degrees south of the Moon
February 3 Uranus 2.6 degrees south of the Moon
February 4 Mars 4.6 degrees north of Spica
February 6 Mercury stationary
Moon first quarter
February 8 Aldebaran 2.3 degrees south of the Moon
February 9 Moon northern most declination (19.3 degrees)
February 11 Jupiter 4.9 degrees north of the Moon
February 12 Moon at apogee
February 14 Moon full
February 15 Regulus 4.8 degrees north of the Moon
Mercury inferior conjunction
February 19 Spica 1.5 degrees south of the Moon
Mars 3.1 degrees north of the Moon
February 21 Saturn 0.3 degrees north of the Moon Occn
February 22 Moon last quarter
February 23 Neptune at conjunction
February 24 Moon southern most declination (-19.1 degrees)
February 25 Pluto 2.2 degrees south of the Moon
February 26 Venus 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 27 Moon at perigee
Mercury 2.7 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury stationary
February 28 Neptune 4.8 degrees south of the Moon
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • inferior conjunction: Conjunction where a solar system object is between the Earth and the Sun
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth