Three bright planets congregate in the southeastern quadrant of the sky at dawn this month. Jupiter is the brightest and highest of the three, shining brilliantly from near the center of Libra, high in the south at first light. At the same time, Saturn is low in the southeast, just above the teapot formed by the brightest stars of Sagittarius. Mars slides between them. It begins the month closer to Jupiter (and close to its “rival,” Antares), but ends the month closer to Saturn.
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In the Sky This Month
February 20: Canis Major
The constellation Canis Major, the big dog, is best known for its leading light: Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky. It stands a third of the way up the southeastern sky at nightfall.
February 21: Wezen
Canis Major, the big dog, is in the southeast as night falls. The constellation’s third-brightest star, Wezen, is one of the biggest, brightest stars in our part of the galaxy. It’s also one of the youngest, at an age of just 10 million years.
February 22: First-Quarter Moon
The Moon will reach its first-quarter phase tonight, as sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. The illuminated fraction will grow larger each day until the Moon is full on March 1.
February 23: Moon and Aldebaran
The bright orange star Aldebaran, which marks the eye of Taurus, the bull, stands to the lower right of the Moon as night falls and leads the Moon down the western sky later on. The star is about 65 light-years from Earth.
February 24: Venus Returns
The planet Venus, the brilliant “evening star,” is returning to view. It is quite low in the west at sunset, so any trees or buildings along the horizon will block it from view. If you have a clear horizon, though, you may be able to pick it out.
February 25: Blue Beauty
The constellation Monoceros is well up in the southeast in early evening, between the bright stars Procyon and Betelgeuse. A telescope reveals that the unicorn’s second-brightest star actually consists of three stars, all of which shine blue-white.
February 26: Lynx
An obscure cat known as Lynx pads high across the sky at this time of year. It stands high in the north-northeast in early to mid evening, about half way between the outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper and the bright twins of Gemini.