Late Winter Skies: Sights, Activities, and Resources

Image Slices:  JPL's What's Up?; Sky & Telescope's Sky at a Glance; EarthSky's Guide to the Five Visible Planets;  Stellarium
Want to see the five planets in the early morning but you aren't a morning person? Are you wondering what you can see in the evening skies, or other objects you can spot in the skies this month? We have a few resources you can go to that will help you plan your stargazing, both hosted by the Night Sky Network's website and elsewhere online. These resources will help you not just for stargazing in February, but for the rest of the year!
The Night Sky Network's own Planning Guide  a very handy tool to quickly plot your stargazing. The page features weather conditions customized to your location, a daily featured stargazing target from EarthSky, and the current phase of the Moon. There are also links to many additional handy resources such as videos with tips for stargazers, star from Sky Maps, a link to sign up for alerts for when the International Space Station passes over your location from Spot the Station, and even detailed reports on the conditions of your skies from Clear Sky Chart.  You can find the NSN PLanning Guide at .
Of course, the five visible planets out before dawn are the biggest attraction in the skies this month! Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are all visible at the same time, and the Moon's orbit will bring it seemingly nearby some of these planets during this month a well (keep in mind, of course, that the appearance of closeness to these planets is a coincidence: the Moon is very close to Earth and extremely far from any of the solar system's planets). EarthSky has an excellent monthly feature for planet-watchers, 'The Monthly Guide to the Five Visible Planets, " updated at With EarthSky's detailed monthly guides and charts you can spot any of the five visible planets, morning or night-provided they aren't too close to the Sun! That and other frequently updated guides can be found on their "Astronomy Essentials " page at .
Skywatchers with binoculars or a small telescope can still spot Comet Catalina, fading fast but now visible most of the night as it continues its course near the northern section of sky. You can look for guides online, or find its exact position with astronomy software such as Stellarium  (,  free on many platforms like Windows and OS X.  JPL puts out a fun monthly video with tips on what to watch every month with their "What's Up" videos. This month's video, on YouTube at , features not just the five visible planets but also discusses to find Comet Catalina. You can find that video along with many others from JPL on their official YouTube page here: .
Keep your eyes peeled for the winter constellations, easily spotted after sunset, with Orion and its cluster of beautiful objects including its famed nebula, easily visible. Find out more about Orion and its nursery of baby stars in our Universe Discovery Guide at , which also include fun activities and star charts to help you explore Orion with your family and friends.  There are many other great objects to spot in the crisp winter skies, and Sky and Telescope has a great guide to tempting targets for stargazers every week in their weekly "Sky at a Glance" feature. You can find an index of their features, including their most recent, here:

One additional and regularly updated guide to the night sky comes from Eyes on the Sky. Their videos zoom in on additional astronomical objects you can spot in the constellations. Open clusters in Auriga have been their focus so far for this month. Find out how to spot these sparkly beauties with binoculars or a telescope by checking out their videos on YouTube  or on their site at .
These are just a few of the resources you can use to help you get the most out of stargazing. Keep looking up, and keep searching for more great tool and tips-and may you have clear skies!

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