The bright moon shines in between the planet Jupiter and the star Aldebaran on Sunday night, February 9, 2014. The dark side of the waxing gibbous moon points toward the planet Jupiter, while the lit side points in the direction of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull.
Although Aldebaran is one of the sky’s brightest stars, the planet Jupiter outshines Aldebaran by more than 20 times. In fact, the moon and Jupiter rank as the brightest and second-brightest heavenly bodies in the February 2014 evening sky.
Jupiter resides in front of the constellation Gemini the Twins, not too far for Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux. If you can locate the star Aldebaran and the Gemini stars tonight, you can go on from there to piece together the great big wheel of stars known as the Winter Circle. (See the photo below.) As seen from northerly latitudes – like in the U.S., Canada and Europe – the star Capella reigns at the top of the Winter Circle whereas the star Sirius sits at bottom.
From the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s actually summer right now, the Winter Circle appears “upside-down,” with Sirius at top and Capella at bottom. But from either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll see the moon in between the planet Jupiter and the star Aldebaran on the night of February 9.
The moon will pass out of the Winter Circle after several more days, yet Jupiter will remain your guide “star” to the Gemini stars and the Winter Circle for the next several months. Look for Jupiter and the Winter Circle to pop out every evening as dusk gives way to nightfall.
Bottom line: On the night of February 9, 2014, let the moon introduce you to the planet Jupiter, the star Aldebaran and the several bright stars of the Winter Circle.