How to see the planets in the night sky, February 2022

Find out which planets will be prominent in the night sky throughout February 2022 and how you can spot them in our astronomy guide.

Published: January 27, 2022 at 11:04 am
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The observational window for Uranus worsens this month, so you might be forgiven for questioning why we’ve chosen it as the planet to lead our February 2022 guide with.

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Despite its slowly deteriorating position, it currently has the highest declination of all the main planets, and this means it still maintains a decent altitude after the evening sky darkens.

Read our month-by-month guide to observing the planets in 2022 or find out how to find the planets in the night sky.

A chart showing the path of Uranus in the night sky, February 2022
A chart showing the path of Uranus in the night sky, February 2022. Credit: Pete Lawrence

On 1 February the mag. +5.8 planet appears just west of south as true darkness falls.

At this time its altitude is around 50˚, way better than any other planet on view from the UK.

Things do progressively get worse through the month. By the middle of February, Uranus has an altitude of 44˚ as darkness falls, a figure which drops to 34˚ by the month’s close.

Despite the decline, Uranus remains a viable target all month.

A telescope is required to show Uranus as anything more than a star-like dot, and to reveal its green hue.

View Uranus through a small telescope to catch its green hue. Credit: Pete Lawrence
View Uranus through a small telescope to catch its green hue. Credit: Pete Lawrence

A magnification of 200x or greater will reveal the ice giant’s small, but unmistakable disc.

Currently, Uranus appears 3.5 arcseconds across.

For comparison, Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter’s Galilean moons and the largest moon in the Solar System, has an apparent diameter of 1.8 arcseconds when Jupiter is near opposition, about half the apparent size of Uranus.

Planet Uranus by Avani Soares, Parsec Observatory, Canoas, Brazil. Equipment: C14 Edge, ASI 224, PM 2X, Red filter 610 nm
Planet Uranus by Avani Soares, Parsec Observatory, Canoas, Brazil. Equipment: C14 Edge, ASI 224, PM 2X, Red filter 610 nm

Neptune, the Solar System’s outer planet, presents a disc 2.2 arcseconds in diameter.

Uranus sits 24 arcminutes south-southeast of 29 Arietis at February’s start, the star and planet forming a well-matched visual pair.

On 7 February, a 43%-lit waxing crescent Moon sits 1.5˚ to the south of Uranus (centre-to-centre).

Mars and Venus

Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction 8 Oct 2015 by Peter Louer, Tenerife. Equipment: Canon 700D 18-55mm Lens
Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mars Conjunction 8 Oct 2015 by Peter Louer, Tenerife. Equipment: Canon 700D 18-55mm Lens

Venus and Mars are visible in the morning sky in February 2022.

The two planets are not that well placed as seen from the UK as they are in the southern constellation of Sagittarius, the Archer.

They form a mismatched couple during the month, Venus shining brightly at mag. –4.5, Mars much dimmer at mag. +1.4.

However, they are interesting to watch if you have a flat southeast horizon as they appear to approach one another during the month.

On 14 February 2022, look for a grouping of Venus, Mars and Mercury at 06:50 UT (as viewed from the central UK). Credit: Pete Lawrence
On 14 February 2022, look for a grouping of Venus, Mars and Mercury at 06:50 UT (as viewed from the central UK). Credit: Pete Lawrence

On 14 February Venus sits 6.5˚ to the north of Mars, the pair both above the horizon, 90 minutes prior to sunrise.

Venus should be obvious, but you’ll probably have to wait a little longer for Mars to rise sufficiently to be visible through the low horizon murk.

On 14 February mag. +0.1 Mercury will also be there, forming the sharp point of a sunward-pointing isosceles triangle with Mars and Venus as the base.

A 15%-lit waning crescent Moon sits 4.7˚ south of Mars on 27 February.

On this date, Mars and Venus will appear separated by 5.3˚, the Red Planet having brightened to mag. +1.3.

By the month’s end, both planets appear 5.1˚ apart, with the separation dropping to just below 4˚ in the first half of March.

How to see the planets in February 2022

The phase and relative sizes of the planets in February 2022. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence
The phase and relative sizes of the planets in February 2022. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Uranus

  • Best time to see: 1 February, 19:00 UT
  • Altitude: 50˚
  • Location: Aries
  • Direction: South-southwest
  • Features: Colour, moons, faint banding visible with larger instruments
  • Recommended equipment: 150mm or larger

Mercury

  • Best time to see: 1 February, 20 minutes before sunrise
  • Altitude: 4˚ (very low)
  • Location: Sagittarius
  • Direction: Southeast

Mercury is a morning object, starting the month fairly faint at mag. +1.2 and poorly placed, rising above the southeast horizon 60 minutes before the Sun. That offset is maintained through to greatest western elongation, which is reached on 16 February, when Mercury will have brightened to mag. +0.1.

On its return approach to the Sun, Mercury brightens, while its morning sky position gradually deteriorates.

Venus

  • Best time to see: 28 February, 40 minutes before sunrise
  • Altitude: 10˚
  • Location: Sagittarius
  • Direction: Southeast

Venus is a morning planet, rising two-and-a-quarter hours before the Sun at the month’s start, and two hours before the Sun on 28 February. It will appear low above the southeast horizon, shining at mag. –4.5. Mars lies less than 7˚ south of Venus mid-month, being dimmer at mag. +1.3.

On 27 February Mars lies a little over 5˚ below Venus under a brighter dawn sky. A 15%-lit waning crescent Moon also sits less than 5˚ south of Mars.

Through a telescope, Venus appears as a 15%-lit crescent with an apparent disc diameter of 49 arcseconds on 1 February. By the month’s end the phase is 37%-lit and the diameter is 31 arcseconds.

Mars

  • Best time to see: 28 February, one hour before sunrise
  • Altitude: 3˚ (very low)
  • Location: Sagittarius
  • Direction: Southeast

Mars rises 110 minutes before the Sun at the start of February, shining at mag. +1.4 in Sagittarius, the Archer. In this part of the sky, Mars never rises to a high altitude before sunrise and this makes it harder to see.

The difference in time between sunrise and Mars rising decreases over the month so that by 28 February it rises 90 minutes before the Sun. Its brightness increases to mag. +1.3, and it will be easier to spot as it sits 5.1˚ south of mag. –4.5 Venus.

Jupiter

  • Best time to see: 1 February, 30 minutes after sunset
  • Altitude: 14˚ (low)
  • Location: Aquarius
  • Direction: Southwest

Shining at mag. –1.9 against the stars of Aquarius, Jupiter is engulfed in the evening twilight. A slender 3%-lit waxing crescent Moon sits below the planet, low above the post sunset west-southwest horizon on 2 February.

The gas giant is lost from view for the month’s latter half after its apparent separation from the Sun becomes too small.

Saturn

Saturn lines up with the Sun on 4 February and is poorly placed when it re-emerges into the morning sky. It’s therefore unlikely to be seen this month.

Neptune

  • Best time to see: 1 February, 18:50 UT
  • Altitude: 14˚
  • Location: Aquarius
  • Direction: West-southwest

The evening twilight catches up with Neptune this month, the planet unable to maintain a useful altitude in darkness following sunset.

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This guide originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.

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