Some of the prettiest nighttime sights involve the close pairing of two solar-system bodies, and February features events with the Moon and Jupiter, then Venus and Mars.

Early this month, on February 3rd, you'll see the full Moon and Jupiter rise together in the east just after sunset. They'll be separated by about 5°. Astronomers refer to these close pairings as conjunctions. Although one is near and the other far, both the Moon and Jupiter are positioned on the side of Earth opposite the direction toward the Sun, and as such both appear about as bright as they ever get.

Moon and Jupiter on February 3rd
On February 3rd, the full (Snow) Moon and brilliant Jupiter rise together at sunset.
Source: Stellarium

A second and much closer conjunction comes later in the month, when Venus and Mars close to within ½° of each other low in the west after sunset on the 21st. The previous evening they're joined by a razor-thin, 36-hour-old crescent Moon.

Meanwhile, the distinctive hourglass-shaped constellation of Orion is riding high in the south as darkness settles in. In the middle are the three equally spaced stars in his belt; to their upper left is the red-tinged supergiant star Betelgeuse, and to the lower right is icy white Rigel. Orion is followed across the sky by the bright stars Sirius and Procyon, which mark the locations of his two hunting dogs. To Orion's upper right is Taurus, the Bull, anchored by the reddish star Aldebaran.

This is just a sample of the many February stargazing sights that await you. To get familiar with the bright stars and planets overhead, download our 7-minute-long stargazing podcast below.

There's no better guide to what's going on in nighttime sky than the February issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.


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