All five of the planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye put in good appearances this month. Venus reigns as the brilliant Morning Star, while slightly fainter Jupiter sparkles from late evening until dawn. Mars inches farther from the Sun in the morning sky, as does golden Saturn. Mercury does double duty: It is low in the southwestern evening sky as the month begins, then climbs low into the southeast at dawn by month’s end.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
February 8: Betelgeuse
Betelgeuse, the bright orange shoulder of Orion, is high in the southeast at nightfall. The star is so huge that if it took the Sun’s place in our own solar system, it would engulf everything out to Jupiter, the fifth planet.
February 9: Sirius
The brightest star in the night sky is Sirius, a white jewel in the constellation Canis Major, the big dog. It stands fairly high in the south around 9 p.m. In ancient Egypt it represented Isis, the wife of Osiris, god of the dead.
February 10: Capella
Capella, the brightest star of Auriga, the charioteer, stands high overhead this evening and wheels across the northwest later on. It looks yellow with a hint of orange. It is one of the half-dozen brightest star systems in the night sky.
February 11: Brightest Stars
Look well up in the south around 9 or 10 p.m. for Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. From latitudes south of about Los Angeles, the second-brightest star, Canopus, twinkles below Sirius, quite low above the southern horizon.
February 12: Rigel
Rigel, the brightest star of Orion, marks the hunter’s foot. It is to the lower right of Orion’s Belt early this evening. Rigel is a supergiant, so it is much bigger and heavier than the Sun. It also is thousands of degrees hotter, so it shines blue-white.
February 13: Horsehead Nebula
The Horsehead Nebula stands close to the star at the left end of Orion’s Belt. The nebula forms the silhouette of a horse’s head against a faintly glowing background — a spray of hydrogen gas energized by radiation from another bright star.
February 14: Moon and Taurus
The constellation Taurus spreads out above and to the left of the Moon this evening. The Moon will pass close to the bull’s brightest star, Aldebaran, tomorrow night.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.