The brilliant stars of winter reign on February nights, offering some beautiful skyscapes. Orion is in the south at nightfall, with Sirius, the night sky’s brightest star, twinkling fiercely to its lower left. By late in the month, the stars of spring slide into better view. Leo clears the hori- zon by mid-evening, with Virgo behind him. The planet Venus is climbing higher into the evening sky, while slightly fainter Jupiter rules the sky for the rest of the night.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
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.
February 7: Seeing Red
Two bright reddish-orange stars pass high across the south early this evening. Betelgeuse marks the shoulder of Orion, the hunter, with Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the bull, well to its upper right.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.