Tonight's Sky
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Morning sky delights

Five bright planets adorn morning during the first half of February. Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury stretch from west to east across the sky an hour before sunrise.
Waxing Crescent Moon
Thanks to 2016 being a leap year, we have an extra day this month to view a gorgeous string of morning planets. Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury spread out across more than half of the predawn sky, with the two inner planets approaching within 5° of each other for much of the month. Although February’s early evening sky offers fewer and dimmer planets, they’re worth exploring until Jupiter comes into view. Finally, observers in the western United States can watch the Moon pass in front of Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.

Let’s begin our tour of the planets after sunset, knowing that the best views won’t begin for a few hours. You’ll have to work quickly to see Neptune, which lies just 5° high in the west-southwest after darkness falls February 1. Glowing at magnitude 8.0, it’s a tough target through binoculars when it hangs so low. You can find the planet in Aquarius, some 3° southwest of 4th-magnitude Lambda (λ) Aquarii. Neptune disappears in twilight after February’s first week and won’t return to view until spring.

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