The Night Sky February

With January out of the way it’s time to focus on February. The year moves on slowly but surely and now the longest feeling month is out the way it’s time to settle back into the joy of astrophotography again.

The Night Sky is a curated list of deep sky objects, planets, noteworthy events etc throughout the night skies of January in the northern hemisphere.

I split all the Deep Sky Objects up by focal length based off of a Full Frame image format such as the Canon 5D. But I will give equivalent focal lengths also in the likely case you’re using a different camera.

You can use the links here to quick jump to a section:

With that all done, let’s begin!

Deep Sky Objects

Use the quick links to jump to a specific focal length if you wish, or just browse the whole lot for more inspiration!


Equivalent To:
183/533 Sensor: 74mm-148mm
294/1600 Sensor: 100mm-200mm
Canon APS-C: 125mm-250mm
Nikon/071/2600: 133mm-266mm
Full Frame/5D/6200: 200mm-400mm

For your consideration during the month of February I’ve done something a little different. I’ve decided to include IC 1396 – The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula. A really large emission nebula. I’ve included it over two focal length categories as it looks very different the more you zoom out.

At wider field of views – shorter focal lengths – you can include the entire nebula and the Garnet Star. At tighter fields of view – larger focal lengths – you can really focus on specific detail such as the actual trunk of the nebula itself.

With a completely emission based nebula such as this, it will respond really well to narrowband data being thrown in there. Even if you’re using RGB data, adding some hydrogen-alpha to the data will reap huge rewards. Or SHO data really pops as well. There are a lot of opportunities to be had.

Key Info:

RA: 21hr 38m 57s
Dec: +57°29’25”
Con: Cepheus
Type: Emission Nebula

IC 1396 in Hydrogen-Alpha


Equivalent to:
183/533 Sensor: 185mm-222mm
294/1600 Sensor: 250mm-300mm
Canon APS-C: 312mm-375mm
Nikon/071/2600: 333mm-400mm
Full Frame/5D/6200: 500mm-600mm

If Cepheus is a bit low for you, or you’re in the market for something a bit different, my suggestion for The Night Sky February at 500-600mm is IC 1805 – The Heart Nebula. The Heart Nebula is an absolutely iconic target in the Northern Hemisphere and if you’re on any forums or Facebook groups then you’re bound to see this shared in abundance around February 14th.

IC 1805 is also another emission based nebula, with no reflective or star cluster elements to it. Again, breaking out at least a hydrogen-alpha filter is the way to go in order to get some really crispy details added into the RGB data you may collect. It’s also relatively bright and isn’t too much of a challenge to photograph.

Key Info:

RA: 2hr 32m 41s
Dec: +61°27’15”
Con: Cassiopeia
Type: Emission Nebula


Equivalent to:
183/533 Sensor: 259-296mm
294/1600 Sensor: 350-400mm
Canon APS-C: 437-500mm
Nikon/071/2600: 466-533mm
Full Frame/5D/6200: 700-800mm

For 700-800mm I would again point you towards the constellation Cepheus. Cepheus is definitely one of my favourite constellations out there. So even though during February Cepheus is on the way down, you can do a lot during the early evening before they get too low.

My suggestion for The Night Sky February is NGC 7023, better known as The Iris Nebula. The Iris Nebula is such a stunning little jewel in the night sky. A beautiful reflection nebula surrounded by copious amounts of dust lanes. The trick here is getting the dust without blowing out the core of the Iris Nebula itself.

A reflection nebula generates its colour by energising the surrounding gas of the nebula. There is usually a star somewhere that is doing this energising. As such reflection nebuale such as The Iris Nebula are considered broadband targets. This means narrowband filters should remain in their cases. For this you want dark skies and no filters (or UV/IR filters if required) or light pollution reduction filters.

The Iris Nebula really is one of those that warrants really dark skies. In order to pick out those dust lanes. Once done well, you’ll have a super busy photograph to be proud of! Good luck!

Key Info:

RA: 21hr 01m 33s
Dec: +68°09’47”
Con: Cepheus
Type: Reflection Nebula

The Iris Nebula under sub-optimal conditions!


Equivalent to:
183/533 Sensor: 370mm
294/1600 Sensor: 500mm
Canon APS-C: 625mm
Nikon/071/2600: 666mm
Full Frame/5D/6200: 1000mm

Getting into tighter fields of view here for The Night Sky February, my suggestion for 1000mm focal length is located in the constellation of Auriga. Within Auriga, which is a great constellation with plenty going on for it, is IC 410. IC 410 is otherwise known as the Tadpoles Nebula.

When looking at The Tadpoles Nebula, you can easily see why they’ve got their name. You can clearly see at least two tadpoles heading towards the centre of the nebula. I captured this image using the ZWO ASI 183mm Pro and Optolong SHO filters. Finished in the Hubble Palette made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope from NASA.

As you may be guessing right now, this is an emission nebulae. As such those narrowband filters will be beneficial for the image. Even just adding some hydrogen-alpha to broadband colour data to make a HaRGB image would add a considerable pop of detail to the image.

Key Info:

RA: 5hr 22m 01s
Dec: +33°28’50”
Con: Auriga
Type: Emission Nebula

The Tadpoles Nebula in SHO with the ASI 183mm Pro


Equivalent to:
183/533 Sensor: 555mm
294/1600 Sensor: 750mm
Canon APS-C: 937mm
Nikon/071/2600: 1000mm
Full Frame/5D/6200: 1500mm

As we get tighter in our field of view for The Night Sky February, my inclusion for 1500mm focal length is a pair of iconic galaxies located in the constellation of Ursa Major. If you watched or read The Night Sky January you may have noticed one of these galaxies being recommended at 2000mm.

For your consideration this month I recommend training your telescope onto the galactic pair that is M81 and M82. Better known as Bode’s Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy respectively. M81 is an almost face on spiral galaxy located about 11 million lightyears away, and M82 is a side-on barred galaxy about 12 million light years away. I used the brilliant ZWO ASI 533mc Pro to capture this picture with over 20 hours of integration time!

Both of these targets are broad band galaxies. However due to their perspective and the fact the Cigar Galaxy has a flash of colour through it, they both will respond to a touch of hydrogen-alpha being added to them. You’ll notice by adding the Hydrogen Alpha data that certain areas within M81 pop, and the flash in M82 becomes much more pronounced and beautiful. These are a great pair of galaxies to photograph almost any time of the year.

Key Info:

RA: 9hr 55m 35s
Dec: +69°03’41”
Con: Ursa Major
Type: Galaxy Pair

M81 & M82 in HaRGB with the ZWO ASI 533mc Pro


Equivalent to:
183/533 Sensor: 740mm
294/1600 Sensor: 1000mm
Canon APS-C: 1250mm
Nikon/071/2600: 1333mm
Full Frame/5D/6200: 2000mm

To finish off Deep Sky Objects within The Night Sky February we have a nice tight field of view with 2000mm focal length. I couldn’t decide this month so I decided to treat you to two suggestions.

Up first we have M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. This is a very famous galaxy due to its stark blue colours and face on nature. It also has a small companion galaxy known as M51B as M51 is in fact an interacting galaxy. This makes the target amazing to capture as we can see what happens when two galaxies collide and begin merging with one another. Fascinating stuff!

M51 could also respond to a dabble of hydrogen-alpha data being added to it. Though I wouldn’t go out of my way to gather this personally. I reckon it would be more of a nice to have rather than a must have. Otherwise use your colour cameras or RGB filters to capture broadband data on this target.

Key Info:

RA: 13hr 29m 52s
Dec: +47°11’26”
Con: Canes Venatici
Type: Interacting Galaxy

M51 from Stellarium

2000mm (2)

The second object I’ve decided to include is the interestingly named Sliced Onion Galaxy. This target, designated NGC 3344 is located in the constellation of Leo Minor which is rising at this time of the year. Making it a perfect consideration for longer focal length instruments or smaller chip cameras.

NGC 3344 is a face on galaxy again, meaning it makes for a beautiful image. Especially if you have a large aperture instrument to photograph it with. That aperture will afford you the resolution needed to capture stunning detail within the tendrils of this galaxy. Even if you don’t have very large apertures, you can still capture nice details on this target. Located about 19.8 million light years away, it’s distant, and small. Meaning this galaxy could be a worthy challenge most certainly.

Due to its size and distance I wouldn’t recommend attempting this with hydrogen-alpha filters unless you’ve got a very large telescope and can take very long exposures reliably. Stick to broadband data where you can and attempt to tame the bright star that sits in front of the galaxy.

Key Info:

RA: 10hr 43m 32s
Dec: +24°55’10”
Con: Leo Minor
Type: Interacting Galaxy

NGC 3344 taken from Stellarium


Moving onto what planets are available for viewing and imaging throughout The Night Sky in February now. Planetary photography is something I’m new to and haven’t got much experience in. But I know you planet hunters are a passionate group.

To have been included in this list; I’ve made sure that the planet is actually in dark enough skies to photograph, and the planets must rise more than 20° altitude for about an hour. These are taken from my latitude within the United Kingdom which is about 52° North. So depending on where you are in the Northern Hemisphere, your viewing conditions may vary.

Let’s begin!


Beginning with the Red planet of them all and possibly the third most popular planet depending on who you ask. Mars is the next planet away from the Sun after Earth. Being half the distance to the Sun further away than Earth. 1.5 AU.

Mars is also the closest most habitable planet that we can think of and of course has huge emphasis on it these days for colonisation.

Planet Mars. Credit: NASA


The final planet available to view and photograph during The Night Sky January is Uranus. Originally named George, Uranus is a beautiful cyan coloured planet towards the outer edges of our solar system. An ice planet that is a staggering 19.8 AU away from the Sun. Just again as reference, Earth is 1 AU.

These stats make Uranus a relative challenge to image well. Not only is it small because of its distance, but it will also be a lot dimmer. We can usually point out the closest planets in our night sky by our naked eye: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. But have you ever spotted Uranus or Neptune?

If you have the equipment for it, and the clear enough skies then Uranus is a target worth gunning for this month in our skies. Good luck!

Beautiful cyan droplet. Uranus. Credit: NASA

Moon Phases & Naming

In case you’re hunting for the Lunar X & Y, want a super high resolution image of our closest satellite. Or if you’re wondering when to get the Hydrogen-Alpha filters out, or just have an early night in bed. Here are the Lunar phases for the month of February:

  • Full Moon: 5th February
  • Last Quarter: 13th February
  • New Moon: 20th February
  • First Quarter: 27th February
  • Moon Name: Snow Moon

In Native America the weather is typically cold in February. It is because of this reason that the February full Moon gets the name the Snow Moon. It’s also known as the Storm Moon or the Hunger Moon. The University College of London’s Almanac calls February’s Moon the Wolf Moon.

February Events

Here’s a list of events that are happening throughout The Night Sky February that I think may be of interest to you. Again, these are based off of my latitude within the United Kingdom so your mileage may vary depending on how how or low you are on Earth.

Venus & Jupiter Close to Moon

On the 22nd February at dusk you will see Venus and Jupiter quite close together. Because Venus is in the picture here it has to be dusk time. So the window for opportunity will be fleeting and you will need a good South-West/Western view of the horizon. If done properly you may get a glimpse of the ever so fragile toenail Moon, as Luna comes out of its New Moon period.

Clear skies and a good SW/W view will be needed for this event

Pleiades and Moon Close Together

On February 26th the Pleiades, M45, will be visually close to the Moon. So much so that a 200mm – 300mm camera lens (on a full frame body) will capture both celestial targets in one frame. The Moon will be almost at its first quarter phase also, so there’ll be definitely something appearing in your camera frame. Some good stacking and compositing will be required to make a well exposed image complete with M45’s blue dust with the Moon nearby.

A 300mm camera lens can capture the Moon and the Pleiades in one frame

The Night Sky In February Is Over

And that about wraps this up. That is The Night Sky in February all covered. Whilst February has no meteor showers to boast about, it begins the slow transition from winter to spring targets and heralds the upcoming galaxy season with a variety of beautiful galaxies to photograph.

I hope this guide has given you some inspiration and some ideas of what to get out and image during February. Hopefully January was a good kick-starter to your 2023 year of astrophotography and you go into this month with the fire still burning.

Thanks so much for reading, I hope you have clear skies. Keep looking up and keep them cameras clicking. See you in the next one!

The Night Sky February Video

If you wish to watch this breakdown instead, feel free to find the video on my YouTube channel!

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