Looking Up: The sky on Valentine's night
By Peter Becker More Content Now
There should be a valentine heart constellation. Lovers of one another sometimes do find mutual affection for the night sky, especially when the moon is full. On Valentine’s Day 2015, the moon won’t be full, but it will be a waning crescent.
What in the solar system is a “waning crescent?”
As the sunlit phase of the moon decreases after it is full, we refer to the moon as waning. In other words the crescent gets less fat each morning (it is staying away from too much Valentine's candy).
Prior to the full phase, we say the moon is waxing, or increasing in its sunlit phases.
At least it's not called a whining crescent.
On the 14th, however, you will have to wait until approximately 3 a.m. to see the moon rise.
In 1927, Lew Brown, B.G. DeSylva and Ray Henderson penned the love song, “The Moon Belongs to Everyone,” which reminds us that the best things in life are free. Frank Sinatra sang it.
Material things aren’t what is most important, after all. It’s nice to know that the night sky is free to enjoy. It may not put food on the table but many agree the beautiful night sky adds richness to our lives.
What in the sky tonight might remind us of love? At about 7 p.m. in mid-February, the constellation Perseus is almost overhead. If you face south and look straight up, see the brilliant yellow star, Capella. To your right, which is west, is the grouping known as Perseus, a mythological hero. The Greeks had quite a romantic tale to tell about Perseus and his lovely lady friend, Andromeda. She is represented by the next constellation to the right, best seen facing west at this time. The way they are usually pictured on the sky, Perseus seems to be ready to grab Andromeda by the foot. Looking on right nearby by in the northern sky, is Andromeda’s mom and chaperone, Queen Cassiopeia, easily traced in the sky like a letter “M” with five stars. Cassiopeia’s hubby, King Cepheus, dutifully rules next to Cassiopeia, just below Cassiopeia as seen at this hour and time of year. As the stars shift east to west, Perseus is always trailing Andromeda, remembering the rule, “ladies first.” Cepheus, however, is ahead of his wife Cassiopeia, who is constantly chasing Cepheus in a circle around a spot next to the North Star.
Is a diamond a girl’s best friend? If so, try Sirius, the most brilliant star of the night sky, which looks like a dazzling blue-white gem, to the lower left of Orion in the southeast sky in the early evening. In this case, the diamond is a jewel on a dog’s collar, constellation Canis Major the Big Dog, and he’s not about to give it up!
No sign of cupid here, but it may be one of his arrows flying in the summer evening sky. Sagitta the Arrow is a small star group forever flying along the Milky Way. Marriage made in heaven? You may have to head south meet her (or him) at the altar - the constellation Ara, the Altar, seen best from the tropics and southern hemisphere.
Don’t forget the Valentine’s candy- especially the heart-shaped boxes wrapped in clear, red cellophane. The cellophane is great for covering a flashlight, to protect your night vision outside under the stars - with your sweetie of course!
New moon is on Feb. 18.
Keep looking up!