Skywatch: a comet visits, and Venus and Jupiter show a spirit of Valentine


A comet visits our skies in early February, and two lovely planets dance across the western evening sky all month long.

To locate the green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) Earlier this week, pay attention to the lyrics of an old REM song: Stand in the place where you live. Now look north.

Although US Naval Observatory astronomer Geoff Chester said the object is technically within the range of the human eye (less than 6th magnitude), he added that it is incredibly dim in these light-polluted eastern areas. He suggests using binoculars to provide magnification and finding a dark spot from which to observe.

Tonight (January 29), look for the constellation Little Bearalso know as small saucepan. polar Starthe North Star, lurks at the end of the saucepan handle. The green comet is located to the right of Polaris around 8 pm It will be the lovely fuzzy green entity, Chester said.

The comet moves every night. By February 1, when the comet is closest to Earth (about 26 million miles), according to the US Naval Observatory, it can be found in the constellation camelopardalis.

The comet jumps towards the star. cappella in the constellation above Charioteer.

On February 5, when the plenary Moon rises in the eastern skies at sunset and blots out most of the night sky, the comet will be right next to Capella. You’ll have to crane your neck, with binoculars, to see it. The comet now dims and returns to space.

The comet was discovered last March by the Zwicky Transient Facility (hence ZTF), which conducts a systematic survey of Earth’s northern skies every two days, from the Palomar Observatory in southern California.

February can be full of love, so it’s fitting that Venus Y Jupiter A small planetary procession launches into the western evening skies. Find that Venus is the west-southwest sky now in the constellation Aquarium. But throughout the month, the effervescent planet, named for the Roman goddess of love, rises toward the constellation. Pisces in the darkest part of the night. All month Venus will be at magnitude -3.9, very bright.

Meanwhile, Jupiter seems to remain in Pisces, and we can see it at magnitude -2.2, bright. Watch each night as the two planets move closer, as if they were dance partners. It gets pretty dramatic in late February and they come together on March 1, according to the observatory.

The young moon visits Venus and Jupiter on February 21 and 22 and then visits Mars — a zero magnitude object now hanging in the constellation Taurus – February 27.

Saturn is lost in the glow of the sun this month, but the ringed planet returns later in March.

We are escaping winter and will soon see the light of spring: February begins with 10 hours and 15 minutes of daylight and ends four weeks later with 11 hours and 17 minutes, according to the observatory.

* February 3rd – “Whispers from Other Worlds: NASA’s Search for Life in the Cosmos,” a lecture by Thomas Zurbuchen, retired director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and science journalist Nadia Drake. Organized by PSW, formerly the Philosophical Society of Washington. 8 p.m. YouTube channel: PSW Science. Details:

* February 5th – “Historical Supernovae and the Future of X-ray Astronomy,” a talk by Brian Williams of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, at the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club Meeting, Room 3301, Exploratory Hall, George Mason University . 7:30 pm For more details and to attend virtually:

* February 11th – Observe the sun safely through a filtered telescope suitable for “Second Saturday Sungazing” at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly. 11 am-2 pm Free admission to the museum. Parking $15.

* February 11th – Tad Komacek, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, talks about atmospheric circulation and the climate of exoplanets in the age of the James Webb Space Telescope. At the regular meeting (online only) of the Astronomers of the National Capital. 7:30 pm To access, visit:

* 18th of February – “Astronomy for All” at Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County, with members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club guiding you through the planets and constellations. 5-8 pm GPS: 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, Virginia, 20144. Information: Park fee: $10.

* February 25 — Bundle up and enjoy the winter skies at the Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly. View the sky through telescopes provided by members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club. Meeting point in the museum bus parking lot, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

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