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.
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In the Sky This Month
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.
February 23: The Snake’s Head
Five stars in a dark region of the sky were all named Minazal, which means “belonging to the uninhabited spot.” At the time they were named, they didn’t belong to any constellation. On modern charts, they form the head of Hydra, the water snake.
February 24: Eridanus
Eridanus, the river, meanders through the evening sky at this time of year. The constellation winds across a large section of the southwestern sky. Ancient Egyptians considered this star pattern a heavenly version of the Nile.
First Feb. 1, 7:42 pm
Full Feb. 9, 1:33 am
Last Feb. 15, 4:17 pm
New 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.