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In the Sky This Month

Venus, the dazzling Evening Star, commands the evening sky this month. It rises almost straight up from the horizon, so it stands fairly high as darkness falls. Mars is beginning its climb across the morning sky, so it gets brighter and stands higher as the month progresses. It’s trailed by Jupiter, the brightest star-like point of light in the sky other than Venus. Among the stars, brilliant Capella shines high overhead during mid-evening. The brightest light of Auriga the charioteer, it shines yellow-orange.

February 16: Rotten Egg Nebula

A feature of the constellation Puppis is giving astronomers a chance to watch the final years of a dying star. The star is at the center of a cloud of gas and dust. It contains a lot of sulfur, so it’s known as the Rotten Egg Nebula.

February 17: Moon and Mars

Mars will briefly disappear early tomorrow, hidden behind the Moon. The view will be best from the Mountain Time zone, where the Moon will cover Mars by around 4:45 a.m. The east will miss out because the Sun will be rising by the time Mars vanishes.

February 18: Moon and Jupiter

The crescent Moon takes aim at the planet Jupiter, the giant of the solar system, early tomorrow. They will be low in the southeast at first light. Jupiter looks like a brilliant star.

February 19: Moon and Saturn

The planet Saturn is quite low in the southeast at first light and looks like a bright star. Tomorrow it will stand near the crescent Moon. The planets Jupiter and Mars will line up to their upper right.

February 20: Variable Stars

Two variable stars are in view in winter’s evening sky. Algol, which consists of two stars that stage mutual eclipses, is in the west, in Perseus. Polaris, the North Star, pulses in and out like a beating heart. It stands where it always is, due north.

February 21: Navi

The star Navi forms the middle point of W-shaped Cassiopeia, which is in the northwest this evening. The name comes from Ivan “Gus” Grissom. He and his Apollo 1 crewmates named stars for themselves as a joke. When they died in a fire, the names stuck.

February 22: Faint Cats

Two faint cats pad across the eastern evening sky: Lynx and Leo Minor, the little lion. Leo Minor abuts Leo, the big lion, with Lynx above Leo Minor. Lynx was named not for its resemblance to the cat, but because you need the eyes of a lynx to see its stars.

First QuarterFirst Feb. 1, 7:42 pm

Full MoonFull Feb. 9, 1:33 am

Last quarterLast Feb. 15, 4:17 pm

New MoonNew Feb. 23, 9:32 am

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee February 10

Apogee February 26

The full Moon of February is known as the Snow Moon, Wolf Moon, or Hunger Moon.