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Planets to watch out for in the month of February

Planets to watch out for in the month of February
MGN Online
Weather Talk
Sunday, February 16, 2014 - 4:25pm

In El Paso and Las Cruces we are expecting mostly clear skies for some parts of this workweek, so what better time than to sit outside in this amazingly warm weather and enjoy our solar system.

What's wonderful about this month is that there are a few planets that you can gaze at with the naked eye. Now if you really want to appreciate these planets a little better than sitting out in this beautiful weather with a telescope is the way to go.

Jupiter is the only planet visible throughout the entire night in February.

In January, if you remember, Mercury was the planet that would be the most visible, but in this month, the planet with the big red eye is the star of the show. 

Jupiter is the brightest celestial object to light up the evening sky in February, with the exception of the moon. But no star will outshine Jupiter.

Rising in the east as the sun is setting in the west, and setting in the west as the sun is rising in the east, Jupiter stays out nearly all night long in February, setting in the west as Venus is rising in the east, an hour or so before dawn’s first light.

Mars rises in the east around 11 p.m. local time in early February (late night, no matter where you are on the globe).

By the month’s end, it’ll be coming up even earlier – sooner and sooner each evening. You’ll see a bright star near Mars. That star is Spica in the constellation Virgo.

Throughout the end of February Mars will get brighter each time because Earth is now coming up behind Mars in the race of the planets around the sun, and the distance between our two worlds is decreasing.

We’ll pass between Mars and the sun in early April.

But keep in mind that Jupiter shines many times more brilliantly than Mars does. In the early hours before dawn, as Jupiter sits low in the west, look for Mars to shine at or near its highest point in the sky.

Use the moon to find Mars on the nights of February 18-19 and February 19-20.

Venus beams in the eastern predawn and dawn sky throughout February.

Although Venus will remain in the morning sky until late October, this dazzling object will shine at its greatest brilliance as the “morning star” for a week or so, centered around mid-February.

Use the slender waning crescent moon to help you find Venus in the morning sky on February 25 and February 26.

Whenever you see Venus in the morning sky, it is always moving away from Earth and its phase is continually getting broader.

Believe it or not, Venus shines at or near its brightest in the morning or evening sky when its disk is about one-quarter lit up in sunshin!

Saturn rises in the east around midnight by the end of February.

This golden-colored world shines in front of the constellation Libra the Scales.

If you don't know where to look, let the waning moon help guide you to Saturn on the mornings of February 21 and February 22.

Saturn is rising earlier day by day, and will rise before midnight by March.

Saturn will be out all night long and at its best in May.

Bottom Line: Only one of the five visible planets will be easily visible as soon as darkness falls all month long. And you can guess what planet we are talking about. Yes Jupiter!! And What's neat about this time of year is the weather will lend itself to start gazing for the end of the month!

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