What to See in the Night Sky for February 2023

A rare green comet glows bright and cold evenings continue to offer crystal-clear stargazing.

Night sky, Skagsand, Lofoten Islands, Norway
David Clapp / Getty Images

Hello there stargazers, and welcome to February! Besides a glowing, green comet, it’s yet another quiet month of specific highlights to get excited over. That said, cold temperatures give way to some of the clearest evenings of the year, so keep an eye for parting clouds and make some time to get out and look up!

A Green Comet Glows at its brightest (Feb. 2)

THe dark night sky is brighten by a flash of green comet
The green comet, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), photographed on January 27, 2023.

Alessandro Bianconi / CC BY 2.0 / Wikipedia

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZHF) may shine brightest tonight, as it nears its closest point to Earth (26 million miles) during its exit from the inner solar system. Discovered only last March, the comet’s beautiful and rare green glow, intensified by its close approach to the sun, has made it a focal point for astrophotographers. Given that the comet hasn't been seen since the last ice age, this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Depending on your dark sky conditions, you may only need some binoculars to spot it. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, look to the northwest in the early morning hours. Should winter skies complicate things, there is also a live stream hosted by The Virtual Telescope starting at 11 p.m. on the 2nd.

Stay Warm Under a Full ‘Snow Moon’ (Feb. 5)

The full “snow moon,” in honor of the Northern Hemisphere’s snowiest month, reaches its peak at 1:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 5. Stargazing during a full moon is complicated by moonlight for all but the brightest objects, but there’s no denying the beauty of evening “snow glow” on fresh powder. If you’re someone who enjoys hitting the slopes, the days leading up to and after Feb’s full Moon should offer some extended evening skiing, snowboarding, or tubing opportunities.

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New Moon, Dark Skies (Feb. 20)

Nighttime sky with a view of a swirling galaxy

NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

February’s new moon, when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun (and will not be visible from Earth), will provide the best excuse yet to take in the full celestial beauty above. Absent moonlight, the stars, planets, and galaxies will rule the night. Need a target? Grab some binoculars or a small telescope and try spotting Messier 81. Also known as Bode’s Galaxy, for the 18th-century German astronomer who discovered it, this grand design spiral galaxy is located roughly 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. It is estimated to contain more than 250 billion stars. For detailed instructions on how to find M81, jump here.

Jupiter and Venus Share a Close Encounter (Feb. 28)

Venus And Jupiter Conjunction
Venus and Jupiter conjunction photographed in Italy. Kerrin / 500px / Getty Images

In the early evening hours of Feb. 28, Jupiter and Venus will begin a celestial dance that will culminate on March 2 in a planetary conjunction (when two planets appear extremely close together as observed from Earth). On the 28th, at around 7:30 p.m. EST, the bright pair will be low in the sky, so seek out an unblocked western horizon to capture this planetary “tango at dusk.”

Start of Milky Way Season Down Under (Late Feb.)

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, late February marks the start of the best viewing conditions for taking in the beauty of the Milky Way. The ideal times are generally on dark evenings without moonlight from midnight (when the Milky Way will be directly overhead) until 5 a.m. These exceptional viewing conditions generally last until late October. Best viewing conditions for the Milky Way in the Northern Hemisphere are typically from late March until late August.