Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: February 22-28, 2021
This week is all about the “Snow Moon,” the full Moon of February. Its light will spill into the night sky and make stargazing harder, though planet-spotters won’t be affected. That’s lucky because before dawn on Thursday a rare “conjunction” of three planets will take place. Here’s everything you need to know about the night sky this week.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021: A big Moon in Gemini
Look south after dark and you’ll see an 87%-lit waxing Moon close to Pollux in the winter constellation of Gemini, eventually forming a straight line with Pollux and its twin star Castor in the early hours of the morning in North America. Pollux is a giant star 34 light years distant.
Thursday, February 25 through Sunday, February 28, 2021: ‘Planetary trio’ of Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury
Six weeks after their “celestial triangle” in the evening skies of January comes a looser alignment of the same three planets in the pre-dawn morning skies. Look low on the eastern horizon just before dawn on February 24 and you’ll see Jupiter lowest with Mercury above, and dimmer Saturn on the right-hand side.
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The following three mornings offer much the same sight, though Jupiter will appear to move closer to Mercury.
Make the most of it since there isn’t another planetary threesome until April 20, 2026.
Saturday, February 27, 2021: full ‘Snow Moon’
Ready for another full Moon? Today at 08:17 Universal Time our satellite is fully illuminated by the Sun. Called the “Hunger Moon,” “Storm Moon” and “Snow Moon,” it’s the final full Moon of the astronomical season of winter, which ends on the date of the Spring equinox—March 21, 2021.
From Europe and the east coast of North America dusk on February 27 will provide the best views while on the west coast dusk on February 26 is when to observe.
Sunday, February 28, 2021: Mercury high in the sky
If you’ve ever wanted to have a really good look at Mercury—and didn’t get to see it earlier this week—know that this morning the “Swift Planet” will be at its highest point in the pre-dawn morning sky.
Look above the eastern horizon shortly before sunrise and use binoculars—Mercury is pretty small!
Constellation of the week: Canis Major
“The Big Dog” is easy to find—just look for the brightest star in the night sky. If you can’t find Sirius, or just to be sure you’ve found it, just follow the three stars in the Orion’s Belt towards the horizon.
In truth, Sirius—the nose of the dog—is the clear highlight of the constellation of Canis Major, and only if you happen to be observing from about 30° latitude (Florida and Texas in North America) will you be able to trace the pattern of a dog.
Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.