There are the first signs of spring in this month’s night sky even though the winter constellations are clearly on display.
The Plough is now higher in the north east, with its handle pointing in the general direction of the horizon. If you follow the curve of the handle you will come to a bright orange star low in the sky. This is Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes. Arcturus is the brightest star in the spring sky. The ‘W’ of Cassiopeia is high in the north west.
Orion still dominates the southern part of the sky. However, as Orion is a little to the west of south, now is the best time to see Sirius the Dog Star. This is the brightest star in the sky. Using the three stars that form Orion’s belt to form a line, continue down that line and you will reach Sirius.
The stars are a very long way away. Sirius, although the brightest, is in fact very close to us, at around 8.5 light years away.
The other winter stars, Aldebaran and the Seven Sisters in Taurus are now starting to get lower in the west, while Castor and Pollux together with Procyon are now at their highest points. Capella is still high, being just past the overhead position. However, while Capella is very high, Vega, which occupied the overhead point in summer, is now at its lowest, close to the northern horizon.
In the evening the only visible is Jupiter; it rises at about 10pm. It appears as a very bright white object in the sky.
In the morning sky you can see the planet Mars which looks like a fairly bright red ‘star’. Look up about 6am and it will be high in the sky. Of the other bright planets, Saturn, which appears as a yellow looking ‘star’ about the same brightness as Mars, is low in the south close to the horizon. Mercury and Venus are both really too close to the Sun to be seen this month.
On 15th February, the first quarter Moon forms a triangle with Aldebaran and the Seven Sisters.
On 23rd February, the Moon will lie to the right of Jupiter.
Phases of the Moon this month are Last Quarter on 1st, New Moon on 8th, First Quarter on 15th, and a Full Moon on 22nd.
Enjoy your observations.