Thankfully, we have had some bright clear evening skies to see Orion and the surrounding stars at their best. Just as well perhaps because the planets are conspicuous by their absence.
The following chart represents the night sky at 10.00pm GMT on the 8th of February and at 9.00pm GMT on the 23rd February. To use the chart, face your southern horizon at the appropriate time and you will see the stars in the chart.
There is no problem with navigation this month because Orion is on the right hand side of the chart. However we have been enjoying the bright stars in the winter sky recently and this month we are turning to some fainter ones. To the left and up from Orion is the zodiacal constellation Gemini- The Twins, with the easily found bright stars Castor and Pollux. Pollux is a magnitude 1.1 single yellow star but Castor is part of a multiple system. It can be resolved into two stars with a small telescope while a larger telescope will reveal a faint red companion. But each of these stars is a double making six stars altogether! The bodies of the twins are represented by two lines of faintish stars with their feet in the Milky Way. You should be able to pick out Alhena at magnitude 1.9, representing the feet of Pollux just over halfway between Pollux and Betelgeuse.
Below and to the left of Gemini lies another zodiacal constellation Cancer- The Crab. It is the faintest of the zodiacal constellations but is in a dark region of the sky between the bright stars of Gemini and Leo.
Finally below and to the left of Cancer and left of the bright star Procyon is the constellation Hydra- The Water Snake. It is the largest constellation in the night sky but its long chain of faint stars makes it hard to trace. Its brightest star, Alphard, marks its heart and six moderately bright stars form its head while its tail is in the southern hemisphere.
Something to look out for
First apologies for my optimism in suggesting that you would see the Moon and Venus together on the morning of 18th January. By the time the Sun was up the waning crescent Moon was lost in the Sun’s glare. You would have had to be observing before sunrise, a case of the early bird catches the worm! The evening sky is almost void of planets so try to catch a close approach of the Moon and Jupiter on Thursday 15th February. It will be a six day old crescent Moon and they will be visible after 6.00pm until midnight. Remember we will lose Jupiter from the night sky next month.