Minnesota Starwatch

by Deane Morrison

The shortest month opens with a long line of planets strung across the morning sky.

Look about an hour before sunrise on the 1st and find Venus, bright but very low, in the southeast, with much dimmer Mercury to its lower left. Far to Venus’s upper right shines Saturn, and in the south a last-quarter moon has just passed above Mars. Finally, in the southwest, Jupiter beams high and bright. You may also make out the stars Antares, the heart of Scorpius, below and right of Saturn; and Spica, in Virgo, between Mars and Jupiter.

Between the 3rd and the 6th, a waning crescent moon sweeps by Saturn, Venus and Mercury. On the 6th, the moon will be thinnest and closest to the sun. But it may come in handy when you look for Mercury; the little planet will appear beneath the lower cusp of the moon’s crescent.

Meanwhile, Mars and Antares–whose name means “rival of Mars”–draw closer. An especially good time to compare these two red beacons is the third week of February, when the distance between them will be short and no moon will be around to wash them out.The content you are trying to access is only available to members. Sorry.

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