Night Sky Guide

4 Must-See Events in the February Night Sky (2024)

February is always a short month; in 2024, it also happens to be the quietest month of the year for astronomy events (hands down, I don’t think we’ll see a quieter month than this!). While we normally get creative to find a good number of reasons to get out and go stargazing each month, the February night sky will certainly be beautiful – but not particularly full of special astronomical experiences.

Don’t let that dissuade you! Even if you don’t make it out for one of these few astronomy events this month, you can still enjoy all the other wonders of the night sky. In particular, bright Venus and dusty Mars are hanging out in the same part of the sky (pre-dawn actually, so you don’t even need to stay up late – just get up early). These two planets are always beautiful to see.

February Night Sky Hero

Where necessary, I’ve noted the astronomical events that require a telescope (or binoculars) to view. There aren’t many this month, but you may still wish to invest in a good pair of astronomical binoculars or a new ‘scope to see even more as we move through the heart of dark winter in the northern hemisphere. I’ve got suggestions for every price point, from $100 to $1000.

Ready to explore what’s up in the February night sky? Let’s dive into the nine events you can look forward to – never mind all the other nights where you’ll hopefully enjoy clear skies.

This post was originally published in 2018, and is updated annually – most recently in January 2024.

February 8 – Peak of the α-Centaurid Meteor Shower

Alpha Centaurids - cafuego via Flickr
Photo credit: cafuego via Flickr

If you’re looking to spot meteors in February, your best bet will be on the night of February 8th when the α-Centaurid (“alpha Centaurid”) meteor shower will peak. The α-Centaurids typically occur from January 28th to February 21st each year; in 2024, the peak night is expected to be on February 8th. On this night you can expect to see roughly 5 meteors per hour.

To spot α-Centaurids on this night, look for the constellation Centaurus, which is the radiant point. As this constellation is only visible for those in the southern hemisphere, sky-viewers in the northern hemisphere will struggle to spot any meteors above the horizon.

However, a night sky app may help in case it’s near the horizon based on your latitude. While meteors will appear to radiate from this point, you should be able to see meteors from anywhere in that area of the night sky.

February 15 – Conjunction of Mars & Pluto

As mentioned last month, each year I set a few astronomical resolutions; that is, I pick a few new objects I want to try and see for the first time. This year, it’s Pluto’s turn! (Among others…)

My (and your) first chance to spot Pluto in 2024 comes on February 15th. Mars and Pluto will rise together, passing within 1°55′ of one another at their nearest visual perspective; this is great if you’re able to use Mars as a guide to finding Pluto with your telescope or binoculars.

Unfortunately, from my position on Earth, this closeness will occur during the daytime hours and very low above the horizon; if you’re both further east and further south, you’ll have a much better chance than me!

February 19 – Messier 81 is Well-Placed for Viewing

February Night Sky - Bode's Galaxy

After more than a week of quiet nights from an astronomical events perspective, the second half of February has a lot more to look forward to. It kicks off with a good opportunity to spot one of the Messier objects – M81 in particular.

Also called Bode’s Galaxy, Messier 81 (M81) is a beautiful “grand design” spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years from Earth. It’s located in the constellation Ursa Major (The Big Dipper/Plough) and requires a telescope to see – but it’s worth it on the night of February 19th when it’s high in the sky around midnight local time for most viewers.

February 22 – Close Approach of Venus & Mars

Rounding out the fab four of February’s astronomical events, Venus and Mars reach their closest to one another in the sky on the night of February 22nd; this is a funny coincidence as Venus had a close approach with the Moon on this same date last year.

In any case, this year’s astronomical dance will have our two neighboring planets appear a mere 37.4 arcminutes apart in the sky; there’s no fancy name for this conjunction (probably because it occurs in the daytime for U.S. viewers and we’re the ones who love whacky astronomical event names), but I did like this astrology-based explanation saying “the cosmic lovers re-unite.” They may have missed Valentine’s Day, but still – oh, la la!

While February isn’t as astronomically bombastic as other months, there are still a few interesting night sky events worth heading out and setting up your telescope for. Do you have questions about these night sky events in February? Let me know in the comments!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

9 Comments

  • John Rowland

    For Feb 18th and referring to the Moon and Mars, you say, “They’ll appear roughly 0°45′ from one another in the pre-dawn hours before they both set in the southeastern sky.”
    Both SET in the southeastern sky! Are you sure? Don’t you mean, “They’ll appear roughly 0°45′ from one another in the pre-dawn hours before they are lost in the sunrise glow.”

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      Valerie Stimac

      Thanks for commenting, Bobby. It’s worth noting that the α-Centaurid meteor shower only averages 5 meteors per hour on its peak night – so you might have only seen 1-2 during a 15-minute window, assuming you had perfect viewing conditions and darkness. Wishing you better luck next time!

  • Mark Steven Williams

    You’ve missed the lunar occultation of Tauri K1 & K2 at 0430 UT, 10 Feb which will be observable across most of North America. I consider this the premiere observable event of February

  • Francis Sanker

    Hiya Valerie……cool site!
    I`m francis from Altoona,Pa. I`m 65 yrs old and love the night sky. Although this location (cityish) usually yields only the brightest planets, last evening Feb. 15th 2023 it was a clear night with a breeze which showed more than usual objects out there. Today I`ve been trying to find a site that would show pretty much everything I could see from central Penna but haven`t found it. One site showed what planets to see but that was it. Anyhow….. around 10:00 pm as I faced mostly west….and looked up to an approx halfway point between straight up and horizon (say a 2-3 oclock position I seen 3 faint objects that were together horizontally. If you could raise your arm up and hold three fingers together and point to it, that was how close together they were. They were all of the same brightness magnitude. At first I though maybe it was part of “starlink” but they didn`t move. and an hour later they were still there just a little further along (earth spin). Anyhow Valerie I don`t know if your site is still active but would love to hear from you if you have an idea as to what stars,constilations,ect. that may have been in close conjuntion last night. It was very cool! Thanks Valerie……Francis

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      Valerie Stimac

      I’m confused why you’re asking if my site is still active – I’ve been posting regularly for years!

      I’m not sure what you saw, but I always use the app Night Sky on my phone when I’m out trying to identify night sky objects I’m not familiar with, or you can use this site to input your location, date, and time to try and figure out what you saw: https://in-the-sky.org//skymap.php

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