This month represents one of the best times of the year for stargazing. Watch the sky for a cosmic show offered by Venus, Mars, and the crescent moon.
This month will display the great conjunction between the bright Venus and the red Mars. The night sky will show them in the same light of sight at about 5 degrees from each other. This represents half of a fist when it is held at arm’s length. As a bonus, the crescent moon will appear to the left of the cosmic pair.
The planet Venus is situated 47 million miles away from Earth, while Mars is almost 177 million miles away. Unfortunately, both of them will difficult to watch with a telescope, since Mars is too far away at the moment and Venus is covered by a thick cloud. What is beautiful when looking at Venus through a telescope is the fact that is goes through phases, just like our moon. Right now, Venus is crescent shaped.
Other celestial events that are visible in this period include Orion and the constellations that surround it. These are Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Lepus, Canis Minor, and Canis Major. At the top of Canis Major lies the brightest star in the sky, Sirius. It lies somewhere about 8.5 light-years away from us.
Many may think that these collections of stars lie in the center of the Milky Way but, actually, during winter time, we are looking nearly at the edge of the galaxy. This happens to be one of the brightest parts of Milky Way.
Also, the gathering around Orion hosts the Orion Nebula during this time of the year. The nebula is a huge cloud made up of hydrogen that measures about 30 light-years in diameter. It will show a slight green hue and even the smallest of telescopes will allow you to see four stars placed in a trapezoidal formation.
These stars and many other unseen ones have all been birthed inside the nebula which emit ultraviolet radiation and are the cause of the colored glow. Astronomers believe that the Orion Nebula will give birth to many other stars that will be the size of our sun.
In the end, the February sky heralds the coming of spring with the first appearance in the evening of the Leo constellation. It will be more visible later in the evening after it rises. Do not forget to watch the beautiful night sky for constellations all this period. Enjoy your stargazing!