NASA has released a video (above) showcasing its top tips on what to look out for in the night sky this month.
Quite rightly, it kicks off with Mars, noting that February is a very special month as it will see the arrival of the space agency’s Perseverance rover — together with the Ingenuity helicopter — after a six-and-a-half-month space voyage.
Unless you have superhuman eyesight, you won’t be able to actually see the Mars rover land on the Martian surface on February 18. However, you will be able to see the red planet itself, and so with a little imagination, aided by this awesome interactive simulator of Perseverance’s planned landing procedure, you’ll be able to visualize in your mind what’s happening there, 113 million miles away, on that special day in a couple of weeks’ time.
Spotting Mars in the night sky on February 18 will be as easy as pie — so long as no pesky clouds get in the way, of course. Simply find the moon, which will be half-full at that time, and you’ll spot the red planet close by, marked out by its distinctive salmon-pink color.
On February 20 through 22, return your gaze to the moon to see it move across the Winter Circle — or Winter Hexagon — growing a bit fuller each evening.
The Winter Circle (below) is a familiar pattern of six bright stars that spans a wide region of the sky.
“Like their counterpart, the Summer Triangle, the Winter Circle and Winter Triangle are signposts of the season,” NASA explains. “In the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll see them rising in the east early in the evening during the time of long, cold nights, and setting in the west earlier and earlier as the season turns to spring.”
The moon will also visit what’s known as “the twins of Gemini.” The two bright stars — Castor and Pollux — form the heads of the inseparable twins from Roman and Greek mythology for which the constellation is named. Throughout February, Gemini can be seen high overhead in the south, with the moon paying a visit on February 23 (you’ll see it just below Pollux).
To find out more about what’s happening in the night sky in February 2021, check out NASA’s webpage telling you all you need to know.