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Tonight

Go young moon hunting on February 9

Day by day, watch the waxing crescent moon climb upward, farther away from the setting sun. The green line depicts the ecliptic.

Day by day, watch the waxing crescent moon climb upward, farther away from the setting sun. The green line depicts the ecliptic.

With an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunset, and a clear sky, you should see the thin crescent in the west an hour (or less) after the sun goes down on Tuesday evening … later after sunset as the days pass.

Orion Nebula where new stars are born

The three stars in a short, straight row represent Orion’s Belt. A curved line of stars hangs from the Belt that represents Orion’s Sword. The Orion Nebula can be seen as a fuzzy object, about midway down in the Sword. Click here to expand image

On some moonless night, look for the Orion Nebula below Orion’s Belt. Your eye sees it as a tiny, hazy spot. But it’s a vast region of star formation.

See 5 bright planets at once

Since late January, and through mid-February, 5 bright planets are visible at once in the predawn sky. This image is from February 8, 2016.  It's by Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona.  View on Flickr.

Since late January, and through mid-February, 5 bright planets are visible at once in the predawn sky. This image is from February 8, 2016. It’s by Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona.

UPDATE February 8, 2016. The new moon comes to pass on February 8, 2016, at which juncture the moon transitions from the morning to evening sky. Many people around the world witnessed the moon sweeping by all five visible (naked-eye) planets from late January until February 7, 2016. But you still can see all these planets together in the morning sky for at least another week. Read more inside…

Gemini? Here’s your constellation

Image credit: Wikipedia

Is Gemini “your” constellation, and you want to know how to see it in the night sky? This post can help. It offers several ways to find the constellation Gemini, plus gives you some of the sky lore and mythology associated with this constellation. Follow the links inside for mini-lessons on the constellation Gemini.

Hare and Dove at Orion’s feet

Lepus the Hare and Columba the Dove are two small, faint constellations near the easy-to-find constellation Orion the Hunter.

Lepus and Columba are two small, faint constellations near the easy-to-find constellation Orion.

Two meek animals seem to cower at the feet of Orion the Hunter: Lepus the Hare and Columba the Dove. There are hints in early writings that stargazers knew the name Columba, and identified a Dove here, as long as 17 centuries ago.

Mars’ west quadrature on February 7

mars-at-quadrature-february-7-2016

The red planet Mars swings to west quadrature on February 7, 2016. That means that – if you had a bird’s-eye view of the solar system – you’d see the sun, Earth and Mars making a right (90-degree) angle in space, with Earth at the vertex of this angle. It means the best time to see Mars in 2016 – in fact, the best time in about two years – is just ahead! Follow the links inside to learn more.

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

2016-february-5-moon-venus-mercury

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.