This is a month for planets. All five of the planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye put in good appearances. Mercury is at its best for the year, not just because it’s bright but because it pairs up with Venus, the Evening Star, for several nights. Mars looks down on them. Jupiter is in view for most of the night, while Saturn climbs higher into the morning sky.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
January 31: Celestial Equator
Orion climbs high across the south this evening. Look for his three-star belt, which forms a short diagonal line. The star at the top of the belt lies along the celestial equator, which is the projection of Earth’s equator into the sky.
February 1: Brackets
The two brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon bracket the early evening sky. Venus, the “evening star,” is low in the west as darkness falls. At the same time, the slightly fainter planet Jupiter is about the same height in the east.
February 2: Moon and Jupiter
Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, stands well to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall. Jupiter looks like a brilliant star, outshining all the true stars in the night sky.
February 3: More Moon and Jupiter
The full Moon arcs high across the sky tonight. The brilliant planet Jupiter is to its left at nightfall, and stays close to the Moon throughout the night.
February 4: Moon and Regulus
The Moon is just past full tonight, so it shines brightly. Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, is close to the left of the Moon as they climb into view, with the brilliant planet Jupiter well above them.
February 5: Rosette Nebula
The Rosette Nebula, a large cloud of gas and dust, stands almost due east of Betelgeuse, the bright orange star at the northeastern corner of Orion. Good binoculars or a telescope reveal a score of stars in a cluster at the nebula’s center.
February 6: Jupiter at Opposition
Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, is really showing off right now. It is in view all night and it shines brightest for the entire year. It outshines all the true stars in the night sky, so it’s hard to miss.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.