Constellation of leo heralds the way to spring

Some constellations are well visible in February. But we have to do without shooting stars. © dpa, Mohssen Assanimoghaddam, ass wst

Even in the brightened city sky the main stars of Gemini are visible in February, but also the constellation Leo has placed itself in the night sky. With binoculars, however, the star forge Orion Nebula can be observed. On the other hand we have to do without meteor showers in February.

Jupiter on farewell tour

Stargazers will have to do without Jupiter and Saturn in February. © iStockphoto

Even without meteor showers in February, amateur astronomers get their money’s worth in the second month of the year. But our giant planets make for the moment the exit. The planet Jupiter, which has dominated the evening sky with its brilliance in the last months, gives its farewell performance in February. The giant planet retreats from the evening sky and becomes invisible. At the beginning of the month it can be seen just above the western horizon as a bright white point of light. Soon after 7 p.m. it becomes invisible in the haze layers near the horizon, at mid-month already half an hour earlier. After the middle of the month one will look in vain for the giant planet.

After Jupiter disappeared, the first half of the night remains without bright planets. Because Saturn in the constellation Capricorn has already left the evening sky in January. The ringed planet will be visible on 4. February it is caught up by the sun and cannot be seen during the day.

Venus takes over leading role – Mercury remains invisible for us

Venus competes with the sun in the morning sky. © Getty Images/iStockphoto, Eerik

Venus on the other hand shines in the morning sky. On 12. February it shines in the greatest brilliance. After the sun and the moon, Venus is the brightest star in the terrestrial firmament. It will play its role as morning star until the beginning of autumn. At the end of the year it appears again in the early evening sky.

Mars in the constellation Sagittarius gradually emerges at dawn. At 13. there is an encounter with the much brighter Venus. At the beginning of the month Mars rises shortly after 6 a.m. About half an hour later it can be seen low in the eastern sky as a reddish point of light. At the end of February its rising occurs half an hour earlier. Nimble Mercury does not show up in our latitudes in February.

Full moon on 16. February – days become 1.5 hours longer

Immediately on 1. February occurs at 6.46 o’clock the new moon phase. Two weeks later, on 16. February at 17.56 o’clock in the constellation Leo the full moon position reached. The February full moon is also called snow moon. Already in the night of 9. to 10. the waxing crescent passes the Golden Gate of the solar orbit, which runs between the star clusters Pleiades and Hyades. With 405.900 kilometers the moon comes on 11. at a distance from the earth. On 26. it keeps its position with 367.800 kilometers near the earth.

Sun moves along the ascending part of its annual orbit. It approaches the celestial equator, but does not reach it until March at the beginning of spring. On 16. February it changes at noon from the constellation Capricorn to the constellation Aquarius. Two days later it enters the zodiac sign Pisces in the early evening. The noon altitude of the sun increases by nine degrees, the day length grows by one and a half hours.

Star forge Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is a cosmic nebula consisting of a cloud of dust and gas. © german press agency

By nightfall the celestial hunter Orion, the leading constellation of the winter sky, is already high in the south. Three stars standing in a straight row are conspicuous. They mark the belt of the hunter. Just below you can see with naked eyes a faint spot of light. In binoculars it becomes clearly visible. It is a huge cloud of gas and dust. The cloud called the Great Orion Nebula in 1.500 light years away is a star forming nest. Embedded in it are numerous hot, bluish-white stars. They have just formed, which means they are only a few million years old – unlike our sun, which is nearly five billion years old.

Orion is followed by a bright, bluish star in the southeast. It is called Sirius and is the brightest star in the terrestrial firmament. Sirius is the main star in the image Big Dog, hence the name "Dog Star. A little higher you come across Prokyon, main star in the Small Dog. Prokyon means something like "fore dog.". For it rises in the east in front of Sirius in the Great Dog.

Constellation Gemini can be seen well even in the city

The constellation of Leo is the harbinger of the approach of spring. © iStockphoto

High in the south you can see the two star chains of the twins with their main stars Kastor and Pollux. Both stars are still easily visible even in the brightened city sky. Even the Assyrians considered the two conspicuous star chains, each with a bright star at the beginning of the chain, as twins. The twins belong to the zodiac, since the northernmost sections of the apparent solar orbit run through them. In the summer they are not to be seen, because of the 21. June to 21. July the sun moves through this constellation.

In the east the lion has already risen. Its main star, Regulus, is a hot, bluish-white sun 77 light-years away. Leo is a harbinger of the coming springtime. Between Leo and Gemini the inconspicuous constellation Cancer takes its place. Well known by its name as the zodiac, it is difficult to recognize because of its faint stars. Cancer can only be seen on moonless nights and far away from earthly lights.

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