The stars of winter reign through the long February nights. Orion is in the south at nightfall, with Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, twinkling fiercely to its lower left. Venus reigns as the Morning Star, although Jupiter gives it some competition. The fainter planet Saturn is close by, adding to the spectacle in the dawn sky.
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In the Sky This Month
February 18: Moon and Regulus
Regulus, the bright heart of Leo, the lion, rises below the full Moon this evening and follows the Moon across the sky later on. Although it’s one of the brighter stars in the night sky, it can be hard to see through the Moon’s glare.
February 19: Full Moon
The Moon is full at 9:54 a.m. CDT today as it lines up opposite the Sun in our sky. The full Moon of February is known as the Snow Moon, Wolf Moon, or Hunger Moon.
February 20: Alnilam
The star at the center of Orion’s Belt, a compact line of three bright stars that rolls high across the south on winter evenings, is Alnilam. It is the brightest of the belt stars even though it’s hundreds of light-years farther than the other two.
February 21: Canopus
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, arcs across the south this evening. If you live in the far southern U.S., the second-brightest star peeks into view as well. Canopus is due south around 9 p.m., just a few degrees above the horizon.
February 22: Moon and Spica
Spica rises to the right of the Moon in late evening. It is the brightest star of Virgo. It actually consists of two stars that are far larger and brighter than the Sun. The more massive of the two is one of the closest stars likely to explode as a supernova.
February 23: Alphard
Alphard, the brightest star of the constellation Hydra, the water snake, stands low in the east-southeast as the sky gets good and dark. It is far to the lower left of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
February 24: Hydra
The long constellation Hydra, the water snake, is beginning its annual crawl across the southern evening sky. As night falls, its head is in the east-southeast, about a third of the way up the sky. The head is outlined by a pentagon of meek stars.