This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the period between February 1 and February 29, 2024. Here are the events happening in the sky of southern California.
Mercury on the 1st rises in the east-southeast at 5:56 a.m., PST, and the sun rises at 6:51 a.m., PST. The planet is 88-percent illuminated and 5.2 arcseconds wide. On the 15th, Mercury rises at 6:19 a.m., PST, and the sun rises at 6:38 a.m., PST, 19 minutes later. For the rest of February, Mercury will be close to the sun and not observable. A magnification of 150x is needed to see such a small disk. Do not observe any planet when it comes close to the sun, for the danger to the eyes is great.
Venus rises in the east-southeast at 4:59 a.m., PST, on the 1st. The planet is 89-percent illuminated and 12 arcseconds wide. On the 29th, Venus rises at 5:16 a.m., PST, and the sun rises at 6:22 a.m., PST, one hour and 6 minutes later. Venus will soon pass behind the sun and enter the evening sky.
Mars on the 1st rises in the east-southeast at 5:42 a.m., PST, and is 98-percent illuminated and 4.2 arcseconds wide, and so its disk is too small to show details. On the 29th, Mars rises at 5:07 a.m., PST.
Jupiter is in Aries the Ram. On the 1st, Jupiter sets in the west-northwest at 12:09 a.m., PST, and on the 29th, Jupiter sets at 10:35 p.m., PST. Jupiter is 38 arcseconds wide and nearly fully illuminated. A magnification of 50x will show the Red Spot, and the four bright Galilean moons may be seen moving back and forth, roughly in a line centered on Jupiter.
Saturn sets in the west-southwest at 7:16 p.m., PST, and the sun sets at 5:23 p.m., PST, on the 1st. By the 20th, the sun sets at 5:41 p.m., PST, and Saturn sets at 6:12 p.m., PST, 31 minutes later, and is close to the sun and unobservable. Saturn is 16 arcseconds wide. A magnification of 50x is needed to see the rings and Saturn’s largest moon Titan.
Uranus is in the constellation of Aries the Ram. On the 1st, Uranus sets in the west-northwest at 1:07 a.m., PST. On the 29th, the planet sets at 11:16 p.m., PST. On the 15th, Uranus is at Right Ascension 3h 7m 29s with a declination of +17° 15ʹ 27ʺ. Uranus is only 3.6 arcseconds wide, and a magnification of 150x is needed to show its diminutive disk.
Neptune is in the constellation Pisces the Fishes. On the 1st, Neptune sets in the west at 8:48 p.m., PST. On the 29th, the planet sets at 7:02 p.m., PST. On the 15th, Neptune is at Right Ascension 23h 48m 1s with a declination of -2° 37ʹ 30ʺ. Neptune is only 2.2 arcseconds wide, and so a magnification of 150x is needed to see its disk.
Last quarter occurs on the 2nd, new moon on the 9th, first quarter on the 16th, and full moon on the 24th.
A conjunction of Mars and Venus will occur on February 22. The two planets will pass within 38 arcseconds of each other. Mars will be very faint and harder to spot than the much brighter Venus. Binoculars or a small spotting telescope will assist with seeing the fainter Mars. Venus rises at 5:15 a.m., PST. Mars rises at 5:17, and the sun rises at 6:31 a.m., PST, one hour 16 minutes later.
February 1-8 shows the moon waning, where the moon’s illuminated surface diminishes until the New Moon on the 9th. Starting from the 10th until the 23rd, the moon is waxing which means more of its surface is illuminated. The First Quarter is on the 16th, and the Full Moon is on the 24th. From the 25th onward, the moon wanes again.