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In the Sky This Month

The cold February evenings offer some of the About an hour after sunset brightest stars in the entire night sky. Sirius, the brightest of them all, climbs across the south, trailing below and behind beautiful Orion. Taurus, the bull, looks down on them. From the southern United States the second-brightest star, Canopus, huddles below Sirius. The brilliant planets Venus and Jupiter creep toward each other throughout the month, and appear to almost touch by the last night of February. Mars continues its fading act; it will shine just half as bright at the end of the month as at the beginning, and will set a good bit earlier.

February 8: Monoceros

To find Monoceros, the unicorn, first find Orion, which is in the south in early evening. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is below Orion, with fainter Procyon farther to the lower left. The unicorn fills the space between these bright lights.

February 9: Beta Monocerotis

Beta Monocerotis is one of the most beautiful star systems in the heavens: three blue-white points of light that make a skinny triangle. It’s in the southeast at nightfall. It’s the brightest star of Monoceros, the unicorn, but you need dark skies to see it.

February 10: Moon and Spica

Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, is especially easy to spot tonight. It’s quite close to the Moon as they climb into good view, shortly before midnight. Spica actually consists of two giant stars locked in a tight orbit.

February 11: Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula stands high overhead in mid-evening. Small telescopes reveal a fuzzy blob of light with bright filaments that resemble the outline of a crab. The nebula is the debris from a once-mighty star that blasted itself to bits.

February 12: Close Black Hole

The closest black hole yet seen is just 1,560 light-years away, in Ophiuchus the serpent bearer. It’s in the southeast at first light, to the upper left of the Moon. Although the black hole has a companion star, the systm is too faint to see without a telescope.

February 13: Many Galaxies

The Coma Cluster consists of more than a thousand galaxies, all moving through space together. It is in the constellation Coma Berenices, which climbs into good view in the northeast by 10 or 11 p.m. Small telescopes reveal several of the cluster’s galaxies.

February 14: Hydra

Hydra, the water snake, slithers across the south tonight. It’s so big that it takes more than seven hours for the whole snake to rise. The stars that mark its head rise around sunset, while its tail clears the southeastern horizon after midnight.

Full MoonFull February 5, 12:29 pm

Last quarterLast February 13, 10:01 am

New MoonNew February 20, 1:06 am

First QuarterFirst February 27, 2:06 am

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee February 4

Perigee February 19

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