Jupiter remains the most prominent planet on view during February and has the night-time scene almost to itself in terms of bright planets, as the others are all clustered near the sun in the sky.

By the end of February Jupiter is setting in the west at about 11pm, so it will be visible as an evening object all month.

The young moon will be fairly near Jupiter on the evening of the 14th.

This is a good time of year to see ‘Earthshine’ (see image) on the dark portion of the moon. This is the faint illumination of the lunar surface from the light reflected from Earth.

In our sky the moon is of course a bright object, but as seen from the moon, the Earth appears in the sky much brighter.

This is because the Earth is much larger in the sky (about four times bigger than we see the moon) and because the Earth has a higher ‘albedo’ (the proportion of light reflected from the sun).

Overall, the Earth as seen from the moon is up to 50 times brighter than we see the moon.

Full moon is on the 24th. Looking up at the moon this month we are reminded of the various recent and planned spacecraft sent there.

More nations are trying to land robot craft on the moon, with varying degrees of success and failure.

NASA has recently announced that its return to the moon with astronauts has been postponed.

Space travel beyond Earth remains ‘difficult, dangerous and expensive’ just as it did over 50 years ago when the Apollo programme successfully landed astronauts between 1969 and 1972, although with several ‘near misses’ in terms of crew safety, most famously with Apollo 13.    

New moon is on February 9, so the best skies for stargazing will be around this time.

Daylight expands more rapidly through February as the sun climbs higher each day.

By the end of the month, sunset is at 5.45pm and twilight lasts until after 7.30pm so the stars are best seen after that time.

By late evening the constellations we in the northern hemisphere associate with spring are visible in the east, including the constellations of Leo, Virgo and Boötes.

Arcturus is both the brightest star in Boötes and the brightest star in the northern half of the sky.

It can be seen this month about a third the way up the sky from the horizon at midnight, looking due East.

Arcturus is noticeably orange in colour and is about 37 light years from our solar system.