Face the northwestern horizon as darkness falls on winter evenings to find the Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus. Look above the M- or W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia. You may see the Double Cluster as a faint smudge of light, if your sky is dark enough. Binoculars will reveal a double smudge – really, two clusters of stars. Each cluster contains 300 to 400 stars at over 7,000 light-years away.
Tonight, look for ruddy-hued Betelgeuse, one of the sky’s most famous stars. Kids especially like Betelgeuse, because its name sounds so much like beetle juice. The movie by that same name perpetuated this pronunciation. But astronomers pronounce it differently. We say BET-el-jews.
You can see all 5 bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – together in the sky before dawn, through mid-February.
The second-brightest star in all the heavens, as seen from Earth, is Canopus. It’s easily visible from the Southern Hemisphere for much of the year.
But Canopus is so far south on the sky’s dome that observers in the northern U.S. and similar latitudes never see it. Meanwhile, observers at latitudes like those in the southern U.S. do enjoy this star in the evening only during the winter months.
If you’re at a latitude like the southern U.S., or farther south on the globe, look for this star tonight! One of the coolest things about this star: in Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, it’s the home star of Arrakis, the desert world.
Follow the links inside to learn how to find Canopus in the night sky, and more.
A wondrous scene awaits you on the morning of February 5, as the moon and planet Venus beam close together before dawn. Since they rank as the second-brightest and third-brightest celestial bodies, after the sun, you should have little trouble catching them. It’ll be more difficult to catch Mercury beneath the moon and Venus before sunrise, although Mercury is plenty bright, shining on par with the sky’s brightest stars.
Cassiopeia the Queen has the shape of the letter M or W. An earlier name was Cassiopeia’s Chair. This constellation’s mythology, here.
On this Groundhog Day, 2016, Punxsutawney Phil – called the world’s most beloved seasonal prognosticator by his handlers in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – failed to see his shadow. That means spring will come early this year … at least, according to folklore. The groundhog sought his shadow this morning at about 7:25 a.m. ET in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Follow the links inside to learn more.
Go ahead. Treat yourself to something beautiful, and hopeful. Get up early on some morning this February, and look for the Scorpion’s stinger stars near the horizon. If you’re lucky, you might behold them – a first glimmer of spring!