Sky-watchers don't need a groundhog to tell us winter is half-way over.  Since the winter solstice, each day has been lengthening ever so slightly; now the sun is rising some 20 minutes earlier and setting about 40 minutes later than it did on December 21.  Whatever winter blasts may come, we're in the home stretch to spring.

As February begins, watch for Venus and Mars together in the west.  The 'Evening Star' shows so brightly that you should have no difficulty seeing her by the time nautical twilight arrives, around an hour after the sun sets, until she herself retires an hour later.  She's slowly but surely climbing closer to Mars.  Their big conjunction on February 21 will be the closest the two come until October 25, 2017, and will be especially lovely with the crescent moon joining them in Pisces.

The full moon of February 3 – variously called the 'Snow Moon,' the 'Wolf Moon,' or the 'Hunger Moon' – travels companionably close to  Jupiter, and on February 6, Jupiter will be directly opposite the Earth.  All month this largest member of our solar system rises in the east as the sun sets, traveling the winter sky with the stars of the constellation Cancer.  Because there are no bright stars in this constellation, the nearest bright star is Regulus, Leo's alpha star.  If you want help recognizing the 'Little King,' watch the sky on February 4 as the waning gibbous moon travels next to it in Leo.

Saturn shows up in the morning sky, rising around 3 am at the beginning of the month with Antares, the alpha star of constellation Scorpius.  To Pawnee sky watchers, sighting the stars of Scorpius's stinger – Shaula and Lesath – as they crested the eastern horizon was a harbinger of spring.  If you want the moon's help in finding Saturn and lucida Antares, wait until the mornings of February 12 and 13 when the waning crescent moon joins them.

As you watch the February full moon sweep across the sky, remind yourself that this is the path the sun will travel in six months time.  Not much in life is as certain as the seasons returning in their appointed time, so bundle up and enjoy the pageant of the heavens!