Download our monthly astronomy podcast to spot Venus and Mars in the west — and a celestial unicorn hiding in plain sight among the stars.

February might be the coldest month of northern winter, but this month's sky is ablaze with fascinating sights. Start off your evening with dazzling Venus, high in the southwest, and much, much dimmer Mars to its upper left.

Sky chart for Monoceros
Look for the dim stars of Monoceros, the Unicorn, nestled between Orion and his faithful hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor.
Image: Akira Fujii

Then swing your gaze to the left to take in magnificent Orion, the Hunter. The row of three stars in his Belt are unmistakable. Betelgeuse marks his shoulder and Rigel his foot. Look lower left of Orion for Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky. Higher up, to Orion's left, is Procyon.

Draw imaginary lines among Betelgeuse, Sirius, and Procyon, and you've outlined what stargazers call the Winter Triangle. But more than that, you've boxed in most of the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. Its stars are faint, so it's easy to overlook this mythical creature amid all the stellar sparklers nearby.

To learn about midwinter's stars — and for details on February 10th's lunar eclipse — listen to or download our monthly astronomy podcast below.

Comments


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TheMagicDragon

January 29, 2017 at 3:56 am

Sirius is where human life began, eons ago.

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McComas

January 30, 2017 at 10:29 am

I find these "Tours" very helpful and look forward to reading them and then going outside to put them in play. I also have been teaching my grandkids about the night sky from these tours. They were very excited last month to see the two stars that were not stars (Venus and Mars). We are hoping for clear skies on Friday, Feb.10th for the Penumbral Eclipse. Thank you so much for the monthly information.

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Maddawg

February 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Why is it that I use the star wheel to locate the big Dipper today and it sits vertical when the sky wheel is showing that it is sitting horizontal ?

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Kelly Beatty

February 20, 2017 at 10:32 am

hi, Maddawg. . . the star wheel shows you the stars that are overhead at a particular date and time, but you need to make sure that the two outer scales (for date and time) are lined up. another trick is to hold the star wheel at the bottom and have the cardinal direction at the bottom (e.g. "east") correspond to the direction you're looking.

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Kelly Beatty

February 20, 2017 at 10:33 am

Thanks very much! I’m glad to know that you enjoy these little “sky tours”

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Capella80

February 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm

I'm observing right now, can't tell if I'm looking at Vesta or another Gemini star. Any help?

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Kelly Beatty

February 20, 2017 at 10:30 am

hi, Capella80... sorry, I didn't see your comment right away. you won't be able to see Vesta without binoculars or a telescope. so did you figure out where you were looking, or would you still like some help?

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Capella80

February 15, 2017 at 9:23 pm

The snow part of the moon isn't too obvious here in Nashville.

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