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Tonight

See the beautiful Double Cluster in Perseus

Cassiopeia and Perseus.

Cassiopeia and Perseus.

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.

Somber Betelgeuse in Orion’s shoulder

You can recognize Orion for the short, straight row of three medium-bright stars at its midsection. Betelgeuse is the somber red star in the Shoulder of the Hunter.

You can recognize Orion for the short, straight row of three medium-bright stars at its midsection. Betelgeuse is the somber red star in the Shoulder of the Hunter.

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.

February 2016 guide to the 5 bright planets

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

You can see all 5 bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – together in the sky before dawn, through mid-February.

Moon, Venus, Mercury on February 6

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Before dawn on February 6, 2016 … think photo opportunity! The crescent moon and the planets Venus and Mercury convene in the morning sky, just as darkness wanes toward dawn on this Saturday morning.

Will you see Canopus?

Artist's conception of Arrakis, the third planet of Canopus in Frank Herbert's science fiction novel Dune. Via Wikipedia's Stars and Planetary Systems in Fiction

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.

Moon, Venus, Mercury next few mornings

Watch for the  crescent moon to sink as it wanes in the morning sky. The green line represents the ecliptic.

Watch for the crescent moon to sink past the planets Venus and Mercury as it wanes in the morning sky.

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.

Locate constellation Cassiopeia the Queen

Look for Cassiopeia in the northern sky, in the shape of an M or W.

Look for Cassiopeia in the northern sky, in the shape of an M or W.

Cassiopeia the Queen has the shape of the letter M or W. An earlier name was Cassiopeia’s Chair. This constellation’s mythology, here.

Everything you need to know: Groundhog Day 2016

... the great weather prognosticator, His Majesty, the Punxsutawney Groundhog.  See Phil on the far left?  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

… the great weather prognosticator, His Majesty, the Punxsutawney Groundhog. See Phil on the far left? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Two stars in Scorpius are harbingers of spring

If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, Shaula and Lesath will come over your southeastern horizon sometimes this month.  They're a hopeful sign that spring is coming.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, Shaula and Lesath will come over your southeastern horizon before dawn sometime this month. They’re a sign that spring is coming.

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!

Moon, Saturn, Antares on February 3

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The waning crescent moon shines close to the golden planet Saturn in the predawn/dawn sky on Wednesday, February 3. The fainter ruddy object in the vicinity of the moon and Saturn is Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion.