The night sky this month offers a wide array of fascinating objects from stars, constellations and bright planets, to the moon. For first timers, observing the sky during the night requires no special equipment but for some, simple binoculars and telescopes are a big help.

This month marks new opportunities for skywatching. Skywatchers can see all five bright planets - Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter together in the sky before dawn, through mid-February. For the first time since 2005, the planets can be seen all at once.

Early this month, skywatchers can see Jupiter as the night progresses. It is expected to emerge in the eastern sky. Mars appears by midnight and Saturn follows after about 2 to 3 hours. Venus appears about 2 hours before sunrise and followed by Mercury. If skywatchers are patient enough in staying up all night, they can witness all five planets in the sky.

By the time Feb. 13 arrives, Venus and Mercury will approach within 5 degrees of each other, in a formation dubbed as "quasi-conjunction". For those looking after the "Big Jupe", it will appear as a bright silver star adjacent to the nearly full moon by Feb. 23 and it will rise by about 8:30 p.m. EST. At the end Lunar February, Mars will be seen rising shortly after midnight.

This month, the Full Moon, also called as Snow Moon or Hunger Moon, will rise by sunset and sets around sunrise. On Feb. 22, the moon is expected to stay in the sky for the whole night but during the rest of the month, it will be seen in the sky during the day. 

This is the time that the moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth as the sun and its face will be fully illuminated. It is called Snow Moonor Hunger Moon or Full Snow Moon because in the past, this is the time that the heaviest snow usually fall. Hunger Moon, meanwhile, means difficult hunting because of the heavy snow fall.

There are no noted meteor showers happening this month. Well, the next meteor shower, Peak of Perseid meteor shower, is expected to happen on Aug. 12. The expected Leonid shower will happen within Nov. 14 to 21. 

Photo: Ed Dunens | Flickr 

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