Identifying Bright Star or Planet In February


There's a very bright star/planet in the western sky, and has been for a good while now.  Can you tell me what it is?


Assuming that the object is continuing to sink towards the western horizon - in fact, it's probably below your western horizon view by now - in February, that is/was the planet Venus ... sometimes referred to as the "Evening Star."  (And sometimes labeled the "Morning Star" when seen prior to sunrise.)

Okay .. that would have been my guess right off, but I don't like to just guess at this kind of astronomy stuff, so I went to "Sky & Telescope."   They have a really cool application that will allow you to get a computer-generated view of your clear sky .. you enter your location, time zone, and tinker with the time-of-day.  The software allows you to step through the evening and night - hour by hour - to see the planets, stars, constellations ... and it names most of the biggies too!

-- scroll down near the bottom and click on "Launch our INTERACTIVE SKY CHART"

-- the application opens .. but the view is probably set for the United Kingdom ... hit the CHANGE button for LOCATION ... I simply enter my zip code and highlight USA .. then enter Central Standard Time for the time zone.

What is really neat is that you can pick any day ... any time.

In fact - unless early AM fog is a problem, the software shows that at around 5AM you'll be able to see Mars and Jupiter in the SE sky (fog & clouds allowing) .. and just prior to sunrise, Mercury will be right on the eastern horizon, racing just a hair ahead of the sun.

Hope this helps!

Jay Grymes
Chief Meteorologist
WAFB Storm Team