Big dipper constellation in a dark blue sky

Minnesota Skies: February 2022

Learn more about what to see in February's night sky!

Published01/25/2022 , by Deane Morrison

All month long, the knot of bright winter constellations occupies center stage in the south during the prime early evening viewing hours. This grouping boasts five stars that rank among the top ten brightest in the night sky: Sirius (No. 1), Capella (No. 6), Rigel (No. 7), Procyon (No. 8), and Betelgeuse (No. 10). 

A bright red and yellow star called Betelguese

The Spotty Surface of Betelgeuse, credit: Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al.

At nightfall, Sirius shines from Canis Major, the big dog, while above and slightly to the east twinkles Procyon, in Canis Minor, the little dog. Both are near neighbors of the sun, so no wonder they appear so bright. Sitting atop the stellar panoply, Capella, in Auriga, the charioteer, is four times more distant than either Sirius or Procyon. But the two stars in Orion—Betelgeuse, at his right shoulder, and Rigel, at his left foot—hold their own against the others despite being more than 10 times farther away than even Capella.

A waxing moon passes between the horns of Taurus, the bull, on the night of February 10 and between the bodies of the Gemini twins on the night of February 12. On February 13, the “head” stars of the twins—Pollux (the brighter) and Castor—form a nearly straight line with the moon. February’s full moon shines from the jaws of Leo, the lion, the night of February 15 and will still be gorgeous when it rises on the evening of February 16.  

In the morning sky, brilliant Venus, in the southeast, spends much of the month climbing toward much dimmer Mars. A waning moon passes Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, the maiden, between February 20 and 21 and visits Antares, the heart of Scorpius, on February 24. On February 27, Venus, Mars and an old crescent moon stack up with Mars in the middle. To see all three, look to the southeast just as dawn starts to break. 

A diagram showing the placement of Venus, Mars, and the Moon on February 27

On Groundhog Day we get a hint of spring. The day was first celebrated as the astronomically based Celtic holiday Imbolc, or lamb’s milk, and heralded the start of the lambing season. It was one of four cross-quarter days falling midway between a solstice and an equinox.