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Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2022

Posted by Guy Pirro   02/03/2022 01:26AM

Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2022

Believed to be the cosmic fire of creation by the Maya of Mesoamerica, M42 blazes brightly in the constellation Orion. Popularly called the Orion Nebula, this stellar nursery has been known to many different cultures throughout human history. The nebula is only 1500 light-years away, making it the closest large star-forming region to Earth and giving it a relatively bright apparent magnitude of 4. Because of its brightness and prominent location just below Orion’s belt, M42 can be spotted with the naked eye, while offering an excellent peek at stellar birth for those with telescopes. This stunning Hubble image offers the sharpest view of the Orion Nebula ever obtained. Created using 520 different Hubble exposures taken in multiple wavelengths of light, this mosaic contains over one billion pixels. Hubble imaged most of the nebula, but ground-based images were used to fill in the gaps in its observations. The orange color in the image can be attributed to hydrogen, green represents oxygen, and the red represents both sulfur and observations made in infrared light. [Video and Content Credits: NASA, the Office of Public Outreach – Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), JPL – Caltech, Preston Dyches, Christopher Harris, and Lisa Poje] [Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team].


Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of February 2022

Welcome to the night sky report for February 2022 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In February, the Winter Triangle is your guide to the night sky. The northern hemisphere is treated to views of the stars Procyon, Sirius, and Betelgeuse, as well as awe-inspiring views of the Orion Nebula, sculpted by the stellar winds of central bright stars. Jupiter is the lone planet lingering in twilight skies after sunset in February. It exits the evening sky this month leaving no bright planets there until August (save for a brief appearance from Mercury in April). Also Venus is at peak brightness for the year in the mornings, and it's a great time to view the Orion Nebula.

With the departure of Saturn and Venus over the past two months, Jupiter is the only bright planet left in our twilight skies in February, and it's on its way out. The giant planet stands alone, low in the western sky after sunset in February. By mid-month, it's setting only about an hour after the Sun. Once Jupiter departs at the end of February, the post-sunset sky will be essentially devoid of naked-eye planets until August, when Saturn will start rising in the east around sunset. (There's a short period, though, in April and May when you might be able to spot Mercury as it pops briefly above the horizon.)

You'd have to go back four years, to March of 2018, to find twilight skies with no bright planets. Catch Jupiter before it's gone. And look for it to become a morning planet in April.

For the morning skies, the planet Venus will be at its brightest for the year in February, around mid-month. It rises with Mars around 4:00 AM and is visible low in the southeast until sunrise. Venus is the brightest of all the planets in our solar system because of the highly reflective clouds that completely cover its globe. 

But its brightness in our skies varies, depending on how far it is from Earth and on its phase. Venus is brightest not when it's closest to Earth, but when it's almost at its closest and still shows us a large, bright crescent phase. 

So enjoy the crescent Venus that is the planet at its brightest. And look for Venus to form a trio with the Moon and Mars on the morning of February 26th.




The brightly starred winter sky beckons on clear, cold nights of February. Orion, the hunter of Greek mythology, dominates the heavens with a bright belt of three stars. The hunter’s shoulder is marked by the red supergiant Betelgeuse, a massive star nearing the end of its life.

Betelgeuse is roughly 1000 times the size of our sun. An image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows its huge atmosphere with an enormous, mysterious spot, glowing brightly in ultraviolet light. Hubble’s sharp vision allows astronomers to monitor features of the star’s atmosphere and better understand how it changes over time.

Marking Orion’s foot is another bright, hot supergiant: blue-white Rigel. Massive stars like Rigel lead short, brilliant lives. Below Orion’s shining belt lies the Orion Nebula, a hazy spot to the naked eye. A small telescope reveals it to be a diffuse, glowing cloud in space, illuminated by the energy of bright, hot stars in its center.

February is a perfect time to enjoy the Great Nebula in Orion. The Orion Nebula is an enormous cloud of gas and dust where thousands of stars are being born. In fact, it's the nearest large star-forming region to our solar system, at around 1,500 light-years away. The bright, central region of the Orion nebula is a giant cavity in the cloud being carved out by the intense ultraviolet light from a handful of extremely massive young stars. 

Finding the Orion Nebula is easy on February nights, as the constellation Orion will be high in the south around 8 or 9 p.m. Look for the three stars of the hunter's belt, and then find the stars that hang below it forming Orion's sword. In the center of this line of stars is one that looks kind of fuzzy. That's the nebula. It's visible to the unaided eye under relatively dark skies, and is easily seen with binoculars as a faint haze. And through a telescope, it's a sight you'll never forget.

NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveal the nebula in festoons of glowing gas and dust,  sculpted by the stellar winds of central bright stars. The Orion Nebula is an immense stellar nursery, filled with hot young stars that glow brightly in X-ray light detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.





Follow the belt of Orion down and left to find blue-white Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius lies in the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog and companion to Orion. Sirius is also one of the nearest stars—just 8.6 light-years away—and has a faint white dwarf companion star.

Just below Sirius lies a star cluster called M41. It is easily seen with a pair of binoculars as a scattered twinkling. M41 consists of about 100 stars that formed together from a giant cloud of gas and dust.

Above and left of Sirius is another bright star, a yellowish giant named Procyon. Procyon is part of the constellation Canis Minor, the smaller dog and Orion’s second companion. Procyon, Sirius, and Betelgeuse form a geometrical pattern called the Winter Triangle.

The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.

The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."


Constellation: Cancer

NGC 2632                    Open Cluster               M44 Beehive Cluster

NGC 2682                    Open Cluster               M67

NGC 2775                    Galaxy                         C48, Herschel 400 H2-1


Constellation: Canis Major

IC 468                          Diffuse Nebula             P132

IC 2165                        Planetary Nebula        P133

NGC 2204                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H13-7

NGC 2207                    Galaxy                         P216

- IC 2163                 Galaxy                              - Interacting with P216

NGC 2217                    Galaxy                         P72

NGC 2243                    Open Cluster               P134

NGC 2287                    Open Cluster               M41

NGC 2345                    Open Cluster               P73

NGC 2354                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H16-7

NGC 2359                    Diffuse Nebula             P20 Thor’s Helmet

NGC 2360                    Open Cluster               C58, Herschel 400 H12-7

NGC 2362                    Open Cluster               C64, Herschel 400 H17-7 Tau Canis Major Cluster

NGC 2367                    Open Cluster               P74

NGC 2374                    Open Cluster               P75

NGC 2383                    Open Cluster               P135

NGC 2384                    Open Cluster               P76


Constellation: Canis Minor



Constellation: Lynx

NGC 2419                    Globular Cluster          C25, Herschel 400 H218-1

NGC 2683                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H200-1

NGC 2782                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H167-1


Constellation: Orion

IC 434                          Diffuse Nebula            P92 Horsehead Nebula

NGC 1662                    Open Cluster               P39

NGC 1788                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H32-5

NGC 1976                    Diffuse Nebula             M42 Great Orion Nebula

NGC 1977                    Open Cluster               P40 Running Man Nebular Cluster

     - NGC 1973             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P40

     - NGC 1975             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P40

NGC 1980                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H31-5

NGC 1981                    Open Cluster               P41

NGC 1982                    Diffuse Nebula             M43 DeMairan Nebula

NGC 1999                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H33-4

NGC 2022                    Diffuse Nebula             Herschel 400 H34-4

NGC 2023                    Diffuse Nebula              P93

NGC 2024                    Diffuse Nebula              Herschel 400 H28-5 Flame Nebula

NGC 2039                    Open Cluster               P94

NGC 2068                    Diffuse Nebula             M78

NGC 2071                    Diffuse Nebula              P42

NGC 2112                    Open Cluster               P170

NGC 2141                    Open Cluster               P171

NGC 2143                    Open Cluster               P172

NGC 2169                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H24-8

NGC 2175                    Open Cluster               P43

     - NGC 2174             Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P43

     - IC 2159                 Diffuse Nebula                             - Part of P43

NGC 2186                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H25-7

NGC 2194                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H5-6


Constellation: Puppis

NGC 2298                    Globular Cluster          P98

NGC 2396                    Open Cluster               P99

NGC 2409                    Open Cluster               P100

NGC 2414                    Open Cluster               P101

NGC 2421                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H67-7

NGC 2422                    Open Cluster               M47, Herschel 400 H38-8

NGC 2423                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H28-7

NGC 2432                    Open Cluster               P241

NGC 2437                    Open Cluster               M46

NGC 2438                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H39-4 Part of M46

NGC 2439                    Open Cluster               P46

NGC 2440                    Planetary Nebula        Herschel 400 H64-4

NGC 2447                    Open Cluster               M93

NGC 2451                    Open Cluster               P47

NGC 2453                    Open Cluster               P176

NGC 2455                    Open Cluster               P242

NGC 2467                    Open Cluster               P102

NGC 2477                    Open Cluster               C71

NGC 2479                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H58-7

NGC 2482                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H10-7

NGC 2483                    Open Cluster               P103

NGC 2489                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H23-7

NGC 2509                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H1-8

NGC 2527                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H30-8

NGC 2533                    Open Cluster               P104

NGC 2539                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H11-7

NGC 2546                    Open Cluster               P48

NGC 2567                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H64-7

NGC 2568                    Open Cluster               P177

NGC 2571                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H39-6

NGC 2579                    Open Cluster               P105

NGC 2580                    Open Cluster               P178

NGC 2587                    Open Cluster               P179

NGC 2588                    Open Cluster               P243


Constellation: Pyxis

NGC 2613                    Galaxy                         Herschel 400 H266-2

NGC 2627                    Open Cluster               Herschel 400 H63-7

NGC 2635                    Open Cluster               P244

NGC 2658                    Open Cluster               P180

NGC 2818                    Planetary Nebula           P245


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