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 15: Big Dipper
The Big Dipper wheels high across the north on winter nights. It is low in the northeast in early evening, standing on its handle, and high in the northwest at first light. It’s led by Dubhe, the star at the outer edge of the bowl.
February 16: Bright Dog
Canis Major, the big dog, ambles across the southern sky on winter evenings. It’s easy to spot because its brightest star is the Dog Star Sirius, which is the brightest star in the entire night sky.
February 17: Venus and Saturn
Venus and Saturn will pass each other over the next three days. Venus is the “morning star.” Saturn, which is only about one percent as bright, will stand close below Venus tomorrow and beside it on Tuesday, then pull away from Venus after that.
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.