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Night Sky Guide – February 2023

Welcome to our monthly guide to the night sky! We are posting a monthly list of astronomical activities to keep an eye out for in the night sky. This month we have more planets to watch out for as well as the much anticipated Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

Wednesday 1st /Thursday 2nd February – The Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will have it’s closest approach to earth. It will appear near the constellation Camelopardalis, in close proximity to the Big Dipper. The comet has a period of 50,000 years so the last time it may have been visible from earth was during the last ice age. The comet itself is not naturally green, but its head appears to emit a green glow due to a rare chemical reaction. The green coloration is likely caused by diatomic carbon (C2), which is a simple molecule composed of two carbon atoms bonded together. When ultraviolet light from the sun causes this molecule to decay, it emits a green glow that can persist for numerous days. Interestingly, the comet’s name comes from the time it was discovered and the instrument used.

Sunday 5th February  – Full moon at 6:29 pm

The moon, or supermoon, is seen as it sets over Washington on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. Early Monday morning, the moon was the closest it has been to Earth since 1948 and it appeared 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than the average monthly full moon. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Monday 20th February  – New moon at 7:06 am 

Wednesday 22nd February – In the west after sunset we will see a present moon lying between Jupiter and Venus.

Thursday 23rd February – Again we will see the present moon with Jupiter and Venus. This time Jupiter will lie below the moon with Venus below Jupiter and closer to the horizon.

Photo Credit: This image was processed from archived Mariner 10 data by JPL engineer Kevin M. Gill.
The Mariner 10 mission was managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Written by the Public Engagement Officer at DIAS Dunsink Observatory, Sadhbh Leahy.