A comet visits our heavens for the first few days of February, and two lovely planets waltz all month through the western evening sky.

To locate the green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the early evening this week, heed the lyrics of an old R.E.M. song: Stand in the place where you live. Now face north.

Although U.S. Naval Observatory astronomer Geoff Chester said the object is technically within naked-eye range (less than sixth magnitude), he added that it is incredibly dim in these eastern light-polluted areas. He suggests using binoculars to provide magnification and to find a dark place from which to observe.

Tonight (Jan. 29), seek the constellation Ursa Minor, also known as Little Dipper. Polaris, the North Star, loiters at the end of the dipper’s handle. The green comet sits to the right of Polaris about 8 p.m. It will be the charming fuzzy green entity, Chester said.

The comet moves each night. By Feb. 1, when the comet is closest to Earth (about 26 million miles), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory, it can be found in the constellation Camelopardalis.

The comet bounds toward the star Capella in the overhead constellation Auriga.

On Feb. 5, when the full moon rises in the eastern heavens at sunset and washes out most of the night sky, the comet will be right next to Capella. You’ll need to crane your neck — with binoculars — to see it. The comet now dims and scoots back to space.

The comet was discovered last March by the Zwicky Transient Facility (hence ZTF), which conducts a systematic examination of Earth’s northern heavens every other day, from the Palomar Observatory in Southern California.

February may be filled with love, so it’s fitting that Venus and Jupiter in the evening’s western heavens pitch a little planetary woo. Find Venus is the west-southwestern sky now in the constellation Aquarius. But throughout the month, the effervescent planet — named for the Roman goddess of love — climbs toward the constellation Pisces into the darker part of the evening. All month long, Venus will be at -3.9 magnitude, very bright.

Meanwhile, Jupiter seems to stay put in Pisces, and we can see it at -2.2 magnitude, bright. Watch nightly as the two planets draw nearer, as if partners in a dance. It becomes quite dramatic in late February, and they conjunct on March 1, according to the observatory.

The young moon visits Venus and Jupiter on Feb. 21-22, and then visits Mars — a zero magnitude object now hanging out in the constellation Taurus — on Feb. 27.

Saturn becomes lost in the glare of the sun this month, but the ringed planet returns later in March.

We’re escaping winter, and soon we’ll see the light of spring: February starts with 10 hours 15 minutes of daylight and ends four weeks later with 11 hours 17 minutes, according to the observatory.

* Feb. 3 — “Whispers from Other Worlds: NASA’s Search for Life in the Cosmos,” a lecture by Thomas Zurbuchen, a retired director of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, and science journalist Nadia Drake. Hosted by PSW, formerly the Philosophical Society of Washington. 8 p.m. YouTube Channel: PSW Science. Details: pswscience.com.

* Feb. 5 — “Historical Supernovae and the Future of X-ray Astronomy,” a talk by Brian Williams of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, at the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club meeting, Room 3301, Exploratory Hall, George Mason University. 7:30 p.m. For details and to attend virtually: novac.com.

* Feb. 11 — Observe the sun safely through a properly filtered telescope for “Second Saturday Sungazing” at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free admission to the museum. Parking $15. airandspace.si.edu.

* Feb. 11 — Tad Komacek, an assistant professor of astronomy, University of Maryland, talks on atmospheric circulation and the climate of exoplanets in the James Webb Space Telescope era. At the regular meeting (online only) of the National Capital Astronomers. 7:30 p.m. For access, visit: capitalastronomers.org.

* Feb. 18 — “Astronomy for Everyone” at Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County, with Northern Virginia Astronomy Club members guiding you through the planets and constellations. 5-8 p.m. GPS: 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, Va., 20144. Info: novac.com. Park fee: $10.

* Feb. 25 — Bundle up and enjoy winter’s heavens at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly. See the sky through telescopes provided by Northern Virginia Astronomy Club members. Meet at the museum’s bus parking lot, 6:30-8:30 p.m. airandspace.si.edu.


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