Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Skywatch for the week of February 27, 2023

Skywatch Monday 2-27-2023.mp3

Mon Feb 27, 2023 HOLST’S “THE PLANETS”

On February 27, 1919, Gustav Holst's suite, "The Planets," was first performed: it featured theme music for seven planets of the solar system (Pluto wasn’t included as it wouldn’t be discovered for another 11 years.) Holst was not an astronomer, but he dabbled in mythology, and in “The Planets,” he gave these worlds human attributes. So the music for Mercury, which takes only 88 days to go around the sun, is a lively, fast-paced vivace tempo, as befits the Olympian messenger of the gods. But the music for Saturn, which revolves about the sun only once every 29 years, is adagio, or slow and stately. Mars is allegro, a loud, militant march, while Venus is a beautiful adagio-andante-animato, and Jupiter, the king of planets, is a majestic allegro giocoso!

Skywatch Tuesday 2-28-2023.mp3


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807. He is probably best known for his epic poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” He also wrote the poem “Evening Star,” about the planet Venus. Any bright planet you see at sunset is called an evening star, and right now Venus appears as a brilliant star-like object above the west horizon at dusk, below another evening star - Jupiter. Here’s a portion of the poem, in which he compares the planet to the love he had for his beautiful but departed wife: “Lo! in the painted oriel of the West … Like a fair lady at her casement, shines The evening star, the star of love and rest! My best and gentlest lady! Even thus, As that fair planet in the sky above, Dost thou retire unto thy rest at night, And from thy darkened window fades the light.”

Skywatch Wednesday 3-1-2023.mp3


Back on February 22nd, there was a very pretty conjunction of the new crescent moon with the planet Jupiter. They could be seen close together at sunset, the moon’s bow aimed downward toward the west horizon, while Jupiter appeared as a bright star-like object just to the right of the moon. But there was another, brighter evening star - another planet - below Jupiter and the moon, and that was Venus. Now the waxing moon has gone over toward the east, shining above the constellation Orion the Hunter. But if you’ve been watching Venus and Jupiter, you’ve seen them getting closer and closer to each other, and tonight they’ll be in conjunction. Venus is the brighter one on the right. And starting tomorrow night, Venus’ orbital motion will carry it above Jupiter.

Skywatch Thursday 3-2-2023.mp3

Thur Mar 2, 2023 LEO’S RETURN

March, it’s said, comes in like a lion. This is meant to refer to the changeable weather of the new month, as cold winter air meets the warm breezes of spring. But there’s also an astronomical connection. Look south this evening and there you will find the bright stars of winter, in constellations such as Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull, the Big and Little Dogs, Auriga the Charioteer, and the Gemini, all marked by bright stars. Now look toward the east. Not much there. But toward the eastern horizon, you'll find another star called Regulus, and it represents the heart of the constellation Leo the Lion. Leo is the first of our springtime constellations. The Lion always comes into our eastern evening sky when March begins.

Skywatch Friday 3-3-2023.mp3

Fri Mar 3, 2023 CANOPUS

If you're outside after sunset tonight, or on any clear evening this month, you should notice a bright star-like object low in the southern sky. It hovers there near the horizon, and at first you might think it was an airplane's landing light. If you've been watching too much TV, you might even think it was a UFO. This particular UFO is easy to identify - It's the star Canopus, second brightest star of the night sky. Canopus, an important star for navigators, is in the constellation of Carina the keel; it marks the rudder of the famous mythological ship Argo, which carried Jason and his crew in search of the Golden Fleece. Folks in the Northern U.S. cannot see this star - the earth blocks it from view. Only at southerly latitudes like Florida can Canopus be seen.