Dark Skies: Love is in the air; celestial pairs this month

Summary is from the transcript of “What’s Up in February 2018” by NASA

What’s Up for February 2018? Let’s look at some celestial “pairs” in honour of Valentine’s Day Feb. 14.

The constellations Perseus and Andromeda are easy to see high overhead this month.

According to lore, the warrior Perseus spotted a beautiful woman—Andromeda—chained to a seaside rock. After battling Medusa and a whale, he rescued her.

As a reward, her parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia allowed Perseus to marry Andromeda. You can see this starry couple together nearly overhead, traveling around the north celestial pole.

The great hunter Orion fell in love with seven sisters, the Pleiades, and pursued them for a long time. Eventually Zeus turned both Orion and the Pleiades into stars.

Orion is easy to find. Then draw an imaginary line through his belt stars to the Pleiades, and watch him chase them across the sky forever.

Two easy to see pairs of star clusters are visible on February nights. The Perseus Double Cluster is high in the sky near Andromeda’s parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia.

Through binoculars, you can see dozens of stars in each cluster. Actually there are more than 300 blue-white super-giant stars in each of the clusters.

There are some colourful star pairs, some visible just by looking up, and some requiring a telescope. Gemini’s twins, the brothers Pollux and Castor, are easy to see without aid.

Orion’s westernmost (or right) knee, Rigel, has a faint companion. The companion, Rigel B, is 500 times fainter than the supergiant Rigel but is visible only with a telescope.

Orion’s westernmost belt star, Mintaka, has a pretty companion. You’ll need a telescope.

Finally, the moon pairs up with the Pleiades on the 22nd, and with Pollux and Castor on Feb. 26.

Now a couple of special mentions : On Thursday Feb. 8 before dawn see a waning Moon close to Jupiter – with Mars nearby.

The Moon and Jupiter are in the pre-dawn sky. If clear before dawn on the 8th, notice a waning moon, between Full Moon and Last Quarter, lies close to Jupiter. Down to the left is Mars lying above

Antares in Scorpius.

The Moon in a beautiful skyscape. In the evenings of Feb. 23 and 24, the Moon, coming towards first quarter, will pass through Taurus and Orion.

On the 23rd, it will lie close to Aldebaran and on the 24th lie above Orion.

You can find out about all of NASA’s missions at www.NASA.gov.

Should you wish to meet the RASCals of Cattle Point – see Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/groups/VictoriaRASCals/

Dark Skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.

Summary is from the transcript of “What’s Up in February 2018” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones with specific permission for localization to Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay News. You can subscribe to her weekly blog at /solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/category/10things

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