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Jupiter after sunset. Moon and Saturn before sunrise

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Tonight for February 11, 2015

If your sky is at all clear, you can’t miss the dazzling planet Jupiter at nightfall. It’s by far the most brilliant star-like object to light up the evening sky. But to see the planet Saturn near tonight’s moon, you’ll either have to stay up late or wake up early.

From mid-northern latitudes, the slightly waning gibbous moon and the ringed planet Saturn climb over the east-southeast horizon at or after midnight. From more southerly latitudes, the moon and Saturn rise somewhat earlier. Because the exact rising times of the moon and Saturn vary by latitude and longitude, we invite you check the times in an astronomical almanac.

Looking for a sky almanac? EarthSky recommends…

If you’re a night owl, look for the moon and Saturn to rise in the southeast sky after midnight. Click here for details

After rising, the moon and Saturn climb upward in the wee hours of the morning. The celestial couple soars highest in the sky shortly before dawn. In fact, the last quarter moon falls on February 3, at precisely 5:56 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (13:56 Universal Time).

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Although there are five visible planets, Jupiter and Saturn are the only two that are easy to see in the February 2013 night sky. By visible planet, we mean any planet that can be seen with the unaided eye and that has been known to our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the visible planets are Mercury, Venus, (Earth), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

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Whereas Mercury, Venus and Mars are obscured by the sun’s glare, the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn are easy to see in February 2013. Moreover, a small backyard telescope enables you to see Jupiter’s four major moons and Saturn’s glorious rings.

Throughout February 2013, Jupiter comes out first thing after sunset, and Saturn lights up the predawn hours before sunrise.