THE SOLAR SYSTEM IN FEBRUARY 2020

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours). Rise and Set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. Data is adapted from that shown by GUIDE 9.1

THE SUN and PLANETS in February 2020, Rise & Set  Mag. & Cons.
            February 1 NZDT           February 29  NZDT  
      Mag  Cons    Rise    Set     Mag  Cons    Rise    Set
SUN  -26.7  Cap   6.23am  8.44pm  -26.7  Aqr   6.58am  8.07pm
Merc  -1.0  Cap   7.35am  9.28pm   -1.0  Aqr   6.38am  7.33pm
Venus -4.0  Aqr   9.50am 10.28pm   -4.1  Psc  10.47am  9.44pm
Mars   1.6  Oph   2.17am  5.24pm    1.4  Sgr   1.48am  5.00pm
Jup   -1.8  Sgr   4.03am  7.05pm   -1.9  Sgr   2.40am  5.37pm
Sat    0.5  Sgr   4.58am  7.46pm    0.6  Sgr   3.23am  6.06pm
Uran   5.7  Ari   1.18pm 12.02am    5.8  Ari  11.32am 10.13pm
Nep    7.9  Aqr   9.26am 10.17pm    7.9  Aqr   7.41am  8.29pm
Pluto 14.6  Sgr   4.47am  7.44pm   14.6  Sgr   3.01am  5.57pm

            February 1  NZDT          February 29  NZDT
Twilights    morning     evening        morning     evening
Civil:    start 5.55am, end  9.13pm   start 6.32am, end  8.34pm
Nautical: start 5.17am, end  9.51pm   start 5.59am, end  9.07pm
Astro:    start 4.35am, end 10.33pm   start 5.23am, end  9.42pm

   February PHASES OF THE MOON, times NZDT & UT
  First quarter: Feb  2 at  2.42pm (01:42 UT)
  Full Moon:     Feb  9 at  8.33pm (07:33 UT)
  Last quarter   Feb 16 at 11.17am (Feb 15, 22:17 UT)
  New Moon:      Feb 24 at  4.32am (Feb 23, 15:32 UT)

PLANETS in FEBRUARY 2020

MERCURY is in the early evening sky most of February. At first it sets 40 to 45 minutes after the Sun, so will be a difficult object in the evening twilight. The planet is at greatest elongation, 18° east of the Sun on the 10th. It is stationary on the 16th and at inferior conjunction, between the Earth and Sun, on the 26th. Following conjunction, Mercury becomes a morning object but rises only a few minutes before the Sun by the 29th.

VENUS is an evening object setting about 90 minutes after the Sun. It is in Pisces most of the month. Venus will be fairly low and a little to the north of west shortly after sunset. On the 27th the crescent moon will be 7° to the upper left of Venus.

MARS, JUPITER and SATURN are all morning objects, forming a steeply inclined line to the east with Mars highest and Saturn lowest. They get closer to one another during the month. By the end of February the separation of Mars from Jupiter will be 11° with Saturn 8.5° below Jupiter. The three will be a little to the south of east. The crescent moon passes the three planets on the mornings of February 19, 20 and 21 respectively. Occultations of Mars and Jupiter by the moon are not visible from NZ.

PLUTO is between Jupiter and Saturn, closer to the latter.

URANUS is an evening object setting a little after 11pm at the end of February.
By then NEPTUNE sets only 20 minutes after the Sun.

POSSIBLE BINOCULAR ASTEROIDS in FEBRUARY

                 February 1 NZDT      February 29 NZDT  
                Mag  Cons  transit    Mag  Cons  transit
(1)  Ceres      9.1   Cap  12.49pm    9.3   Cap  11.46am
(4)  Vesta      8.0   Ari   7.36pm    8.3   Tau   6.13pm
(5)  Astraea    9.3   Cnc..12.35pm   10.0   Gem  10.32pm

CERES is a low morning object just over 7° to the lower right of Saturn on the 1st. Their distance apart doubles by the 29th as the faster moving asteroid draws away from the planet.

VESTA is an evening object. It moves into Taurus at the end of February when it will be about 10° from the Pleiades.

ASTRAEA fades from 9.3 to 10 during the month. It is likely to be lost to binocular view by mid February.

 

Brian Loader

 

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