What's in the night sky in the week of 27 February to 5 March, 2023 in our weekly stargazing guide.


Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky a Night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting www.skyatnightmagazine.com or to a digital edition by visiting on iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings, listeners, and welcome to Star Diary, a weekly guide to the best things to see in the northern hemisphere night's sky. As we are based here in the UK, all times are GMT. In this episode, we'll be covering the coming week from 27 February to 5 March. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's features editor, and unfortunately neither of my co-presenters could join me today. However, I'm still going to be here to give you all the stargazing highlights we have coming up during this week. This week is going to be a really great one for all of you planetary observers out there. We have some great meetings of those celestial bodies going on this week, starting on 28 February, where Mars is going to be getting up close and personal with the Moon. It's actually going to be heading towards an occultation in the early hours of the morning, unfortunately, when that occultation occurs. So that's when the planet appears to disappear behind the Moon's disc and we won't be able to see it on the sky, but we also won't be able to see on the sky because it will have set below the horizon. It's only going to be visible if you happen to be in places like Greenland or Svalbard, which is an archipelago off the north of Norway or parts of western Russia. If you do happen to find yourself in one of those remote locations, you'll be able to see the occultation happening. It's going to start at 3:13am, so that's when it's going to appear to disappear behind the Moon and then it's going to reappear two hours later at 5:10 a.m. here in the UK, however, Mars is going to set at 3:10 a.m., so if you want to try and get to see these two close together, then the very early hours of the morning are going to be the best time to try and see that. You'll probably also be able to see the two close together in the evening sky, but just not quite as close, as the Moon will be creeping closer and closer throughout the night.

Then moving onto the week onto 1 March, we have a very exciting meeting between Venus and Jupiter, which will be making their closest approach of the year in the evening sky. Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest objects in the night sky. The only things that are brighter is the Moon and the Sun. The best time to see these two is going to be about an hour after sunset, about 7:25. They'll be 11 degrees up in the night sky. So nice and high. And you should be able to see the two close together in a nice dark night sky. They'll be up in visible for two hours after sunset until about 8:37 for Venus and 8:44 is when Jupiter is due to go down. But the closer that you get to their setting time, the closer they will be to the horizon. And it's much better to see them when they're nice and high in the night sky. At 7:25, they're going to be 38 arc minutes apart. To put that into perspective, the moon is about 30 arc minutes across. So they're going to be about one and a third times further apart than the moon is wide. So if you are trying to work out what you want to observe them through, you'll need a low power telescope, so a telescope with a low powered eyepiece put into it, meaning you can get a fairly wide field of view and you'll be looking for one where if you can fit the entire Moon into the field of view of your telescope with a bit of room around it to spare, then that should be what's going to be able to get this pair into view for you. However, they are the two brightest things in the night sky after the Moon, so they are very clearly and easily visible with the naked eye, even some fairly light polluted skies. You know, you need to be pretty, pretty light polluted to not be able to see these two. Jupiter is going to be magnitude -1.9 and Venus is going to be an even brighter -3.9. So because of the strange ways that magnitudes work, the more negative it is, the brighter it is. And that means Venus is going to be over six times brighter than Jupiter. So Venus is really going to outshine Jupiter. But both of them should be nice and bright and obvious. If, however, for any reason you do miss the pairing up on 1 March, I'll be honest, if you're out when it's up and it's clear they're going to be pretty hard to miss, they'll probably even catch people's eyes. I fully expect to hear a lot of people saying, Oh, did you see that bright star last night? I wonder what that was. And that's when you can turn around and say, That wasn't a star, that was Venus and Jupiter together. But if you do miss them, perhaps the weather's bad or you're caught up in something else. They will continue to get closer after they have set into the evening sky. And the closest approach that they're going to get is going to be 30 minutes apart at 9 a.m. on the morning of 2 March. I really wouldn't advise trying to to view those then because they are going to be close to the Sun. And we don't want to risk you hurting your eyes by trying to look towards the sun to see these two together. So even though the closest approach will technically be up in our sky, probably best to give that miss. Instead, what you want to be doing is looking towards the evening sky on 2 March because they'll still be relatively close together in the evening. Again, about an hour after sunset is going to be the best time to view them and they'll be 45 arc minutes apart at that point. So one and a half Moons. So that's a great opportunity if you know, weather or whatever stops you from seeing it on 1 March. Alternatively, because these are going to be so bright and easy to see in the night sky and you can see them getting closer and then further apart throughout the week. This might be a great opportunity for a fun little observing project, particularly if you've got any little astronomers that you're trying to get more invested in the hobby or you're trying to do something a bit more long term than just going up and seeing things in the night sky. Go out every night, try and see the two together and make some kind of record about how far apart they are so that you can track it over the course of the week. So starting on 27 February, every night go out around 7:30 sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 and try and take some sort of measurement about how far apart these two objects are. Perhaps you could take a picture of them or you could hold your fingers up on the night sky, even make a sketch of them to show how they are orientated to the horizon and the nearby stars and each other as well. Then every night you go out and you keep this record and at the end of the week you will be able to see the motion of these two planets relative to each other on the night sky throughout the week. It's a great way to really start appreciating the fact that these planets are moving across the night sky.

Then finally moving on towards the end of the week on 4 March, the southern polar region of the moon is going to be tipped towards Earth due to an effect called lunar libration. We've talked about libration back on the last couple of episodes. You can hear that on our 30 January and 6 February shows if you want to go back and listen to those. But it's basically where the Moon appears to wobble slightly on the night sky, and in this case, it's going to be tipping that southern region into view a bit better. So it's a great opportunity to take a look towards the southern hemisphere of the Moon. The moon's northern hemisphere is much more famous for its huge dark Mare which across the surface. And there are a couple of more in the southern hemisphere, but not nearly as many. So instead, I would advise taking a look at the Tycho Crater now on the 4th of March. The Tycho crater is what's known as a ray crater. So when it was formed way back in the day, a meteor came in and created this huge crater. And when it did, it kicked up a whole load of ejecta and dust. Because the moon doesn't have any atmosphere that went high up into the sky and could travel incredibly far, hundreds and hundreds of kilometres. And it created these huge rays when it fell back down to the ground that we can still see today and we can still see from Earth. So that's a great thing to look towards. And if you want a bit more information about how you can do that, what are the best ways to observe it are, how it's potentially imaged. Yet we have some great guides all about ray craters on our website www.skyatnightmagazine.com And I'll link to those in the show notes as well. But 4 March it will be tipped slightly towards us. There'll be great opportunity to look at that. The moon's going to be about 92% lit. It's going to be a waxing gibbous moon as it heads towards full Moon on 7 March. But we will come back to that on next week's episode. And if you don't want to miss next week episode, do be sure to subscribe to the podcast so that you don't miss out.

So to summarise in this week: on 28 February, Mars and the Moon are going to be getting nice and cosy on the night sky. Then on 1 March we'll have the closest meeting in the evening sky of Jupiter and Venus, two very bright objects. And finally on 4 March, it's a great opportunity to look towards the southern hemisphere of our Moon. So hopefully there's lots of things in there that you can start looking forward to and getting out there and observing. And we hope to see you back here on the podcast next week for even more stargazing guides.

If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night magazine, where we have a 16 page pull out Sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for. Whether you like to look at the moon, the planets, or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or neither. Our sky guide has got you covered with detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky. From all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Thank you for listening to this episode of the Star Diary podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night magazine. For more of our podcasts, visit our website at skyatnightmagazine.com or head to iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.