The stars at night The sky as it will appear appear in mid-February at 10pm
Monday 27 January 1997
Another return graces the skies this February. Until May, we'll be hearing in greater detail about Comet Hale-Bopp, an unexpected celestial apparition which may be the most spectacular comet for almost a century.
This ball of ice and rock is brightening as it closes in on the Sun, boiling off its ices ever more fiercely. Look to the east in the pre- dawn skies for a first sighting, but don't worry too much if you're not an early riser - the best is yet to come. The comet will be brightest in late March and early April.
This month, early-evening skies are dominated by the brilliant stars of winter. Look south for mighty Orion, with seven bright stars framing his shoulders and belt. To the upper right is his ancient adversary, Taurus the bull.
The evening sky is also sporting two planets. Saturn is glowing in the south west after sunset. It sets at 8.30pm; simultaneously, orange-red Mars is rising in the east. Two American probes - Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder - are on their way to the red planet for a rendezvous in the summer and early autumn. Designed long before last summer's Martian life controversy, they will be seeking out water on the planet.
Saturn, meantime, is the target of a much more drawn-out space mission. The US probe Cassini will be launched in October on a journey to the vast ring world which will take seven years. The main Cassini craft will release the European Space Agency's Huygens craft, which will land on Titan, the planet's biggest moon. This mysterious world is wreathed in a thick orange atmosphere, under which may lurk molecules that could form life in warmer conditions.
7 3.06pm new moon
14 8.57am Moon at first quarter
22 10.27am full moon
Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientists who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 3 Star Wars memorabilia dubbed 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
- 4 Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans
- 5 Michael McIntyre walks off stage after woman in the front row uses her phone
Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Olympic star must serve 10 years, prosecutor urges
Isis fighters 'crucify' 17-year-old boy in Syria
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...