Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

130,554 subscribers and counting ...

February 2015 guide to the five visible planets

Skywatcher, moon, planet (looks like Venus) from Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, moon, planet from Predrag Agatonovic.

Wow! What a great month for planets! Watch Venus, Mars and Jupiter pop out at nightfall. Jupiter opposition February 6. Venus/Mars conjunction February 21. Mercury and Saturn before dawn.

Everything you need to know: Groundhog Day 2015

... the great weather prognosticator, His Majesty, the Punxsutawney Groundhog.  See Phil on the far left?  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

… the great weather prognosticator, His Majesty, the Punxsutawney Groundhog. See Phil on the far left? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Groundhog Day 2015! This U.S. and Canadian tradition comes every year on February 2. It has its roots in astronomy, in the sense that it’s a seasonal festival, tied to the movement of Earth around the sun. In the U.S. and Canada, we call it Groundhog Day – a great excuse to go outside and enjoy some revelry during the winter months.

Long-necked dinosaur roamed China 160 million years ago

Artist's concept of newly discovered long-necked dinosaur, called Qijianglong.  Credit: Xing Lida

Artist’s concept of newly discovered long-necked dinosaur, called Qijianglong. Credit: Xing Lida

Among dinosaurs, it seems, there were long necks and there were looooonnnnnggggg necks. Paleontologists reported on January 26 on the discovery in China of a new species of dinosaur, a creature they said was “half neck.” They are calling it Qijianglong, meaning dragon of Qijiang, for its discovery in Qijiang, a district of the municipality of Chongqing, China, where many other dinosaur fossils have been found.

February evenings will be great for planet-watching!

2015-feb-1-venus-mars-night-sky-chart

February 2015 will be a grand month for watching planets in the evening sky. Venus, the sky’s brightest planet, and modestly-bright Mars appear rather close together in the western sky. And magnificent Jupiter, the sky’s second-brightest planet, beams low in the east as darkness falls, and then stays out all night long.

Video: Cool movie of close-passing asteroid 2004 BL86

Radar data obtained from NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia were used to make this movie of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its small, newly discovered moon.

Absolutely awesome images of comet lander Philae

View larger. | Series of 19 images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera as the Philae lander descended to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014. The timestamp marked on the images are in GMT (onboard spacecraft time).  Image via ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Philae comet lander’s descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, as seen by the Rosetta spacecraft. The timestamp marked on the images are in GMT (onboard spacecraft time). Image via ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

NASA hopes communications with the Philae comet lander can be regained by May or June. While you’re waiting, check out these stunning newly released images!

Moon near stars Castor and Pollux on January 31

2015-jan-31-gemini-castor-pollux-procyon-moon-night-sky-chart

The moon might look full these next few nights as it shines fairly close the constellation Gemini’s brightest stars, Castor and Pollux. But the moon won’t be astronomically full – most opposite the sun – tonight. For us in North America, the moon will turn full during the evening hours on February 3. Tonight’s moon is actually a waxing gibbous moon.

Although we draw in the stick figure of the Gemini Twins on tonight’s chart, you won’t see much of Gemini in the moonlight glare except for Castor and Pollux.

Video: What would happen if humans suddenly disappeared?

What would happen to our planet if all us humans – for some reason – suddenly vanished? Here’s AsapSCIENCE’s take on it.

Orion Nebula is a place where new stars are born

The three stars in a short, straight row represent Orion’s Belt. A curved line of stars hangs from the Belt that represents Orion’s Sword. The Orion Nebula can be seen as a fuzzy object, about midway down in the Sword. Click here to expand image

Many people are familiar with Orion, the most noticeable of all constellations. The three stars of Orion’s Belt jump out at you midway between Orion’s two brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel, which are two of the brightest stars in the sky. Once you find the Belt stars, you can also locate the Orion Nebula, otherwise known as M42, a stellar nursery where new stars are being born. If you look closely, you’ll notice a curved line of stars “hanging” from the three Belt stars. These stars represent Orion’s Sword. Look for the Orion Nebula about midway down in the Sword of Orion.

This date in science: First modern suspension bridge completed

The Menai Bridge between Wales and Anglesey is considered the first modern suspension bridge in the world. Image credit: Ingy the Wingy/Flickr

January 30, 1826. Workers completed construction of the first modern suspension bridge on this date. It was the Menai Bridge between Wales on the island of Great Britain and the smaller island of Anglesey, to the west. According to local reports about the bridge from nearly 200 years ago, travel in the strait between Wales and Anglesey was hazardous, due to shifting currents and unpredictable weather patterns. But the island of Anglesey had the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west, and, especially after Ireland joined the United Kingdom in 1800, people increasingly wanted to use Anglesey as a jumping off point to reach the Emerald Isle by ferry boat.