Skywatching This Week: February 18-24

Sun and Moon

In Chicago, the SUN sets this week between 5:28 pm and 5:35 pm Central Standard Time and rises between 6:42 am and 6:33 am Central Standard Time. The MOON is in its waxing gibbous phase. On Monday, it is near the planet JUPITER and the bright star ALDEBARAN. It sets after midnight all week and is nearly full by the end of the week.

Planets

JUPITER is visible in the evening; it doesn’t set until after midnight. SATURN now rises just before midnight, so it is easily seen in the south before sunrise.

Evening Commute

The constellation Orion can be seen in the South after sunset. It features the bright stars BETELGEUSE (the red-orange star on the top left) and RIGEL (the blue-white star on the lower right). You can use Orion (and it’s three-star “belt”) to help guide you to other features in the night sky.

Use Orion to guide you to other features of the night sky
Use Orion to guide you to other features of the night sky

Follow Orion’s belt diagonally upward and to the right to find the bright star ALDEBARAN and the planet JUPITER. Jupiter is almost overhead after sunset; other than the moon, it’s the brightest object in the sky.

Above Jupiter and Aldebaran (and nearly overhead–crane your neck) is the bright star CAPELLA.

Follow Orion’s belt diagonally downward and to the left to find the brightest star in the sky, SIRIUS. Only Jupiter and the moon are brighter objects in the night sky this week.

Look above and to the left of Sirius, and you will find the bright star PROCYON. Continue upward and you will find the bright star POLLUX.

Other Bright Stars

Pollux has a neighbor, the star CASTOR (drawn, but not labeled in the sketch above). Together, they are the two twins of the constellation Gemini. Sirius also has a neighbor that you should be able to find, the star MIRZAM (drawn but not labeled). Between Orion and Pollux, you may find the star ALHENA (drawn but not labeled). Above Orion’s “head” and to the left of Aldebaran and Jupiter is the star ALNATH (drawn but not labeled). Capella, which again is nearly overhead, has a neighbor to its left, the star MENKALINAN (drawn but not labeled).

Spring is approaching, and we are beginning to see a new set of stars come into view. In the later evening, a few hours after sunset, the bright star REGULUS starts rising in the east. Also, if you look to the northeast, you should be able to see the Big Dipper. It has been low in the sky all winter, but it is starting to appear above buildings and trees. By late evening, you can see the dipper hanging almost vertically, the “bowl” pointing left and the “handle” pointing downward to the horizon.

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