During a few mornings in early February, the solar system is on parade. Look into sky about an hour before sunrise. Brilliant Morning Star Venus, about 15 degrees up in the southeast, catches our eye. Saturn is about 8.5 degrees to the lower left of Venus, and Jupiter is 18 degrees to the brilliant planet’s upper right.
We see our solar system from the inside. Most of the stuff in the solar system lies almost in a plane. Seen from our place, the planets appear to move near an imaginary line across the sky, the ecliptic. Bright distant stars appear behind that line, making them sign posts along the planets’ paths. Those stars, Antares – Spica – Regulus – Pollux, arc from the visible planets in the southeast to the northwest horizon. Antares is about 5 degrees below the ecliptic, while Pollux is about 6 degrees above the line. The moon and planets pass nearby, but not as closely as the other bright stars along their paths.
Find a clear horizon and trace the ecliptic’s path across the horizon. On February 18, Venus passes Saturn. Beginning on February 19 – one hour before sunrise -, the moon is near Regulus. Look each morning a the same time to see the moon farther east and its phase growing smaller. Watch it pass the Jupiter late in the month, and Saturn and Venus early next month.
More about Venus and Jupiter: