WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #12-06 "Make This Valentine's Day Cosmic With A Gift Of Stars And Planets"
Air Dates February 6- February 12, 2012

JAMES: Welcome to Star Gazers. I’m James Albury, director of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in Gainesville, Florida. 

DEAN: And I’m Dean Regas, outreach astronomer from the Cincinnati Observatory
dean; We’re both here to help you be sure you know what you’re seeing in the night sky when you...

BOTH: Look up. 

JAMES: This Valentine's Day night will be very special because you can give your sweetheart not only the traditional Valentine's Day star but you also have two brilliant diamond-like planets closing in on each other for a super close meeting in early March!


DEAN: O.K. we’ve got our skies set up for Monday, February 13th, about an hour after sunset facing west. Venus and Jupiter will be super bright and easy to find and identify. Venus is the brighter of the two and is on the bottom, but not for long. Let’s start going from night to night and see what happens. 

JAMES: Monday night Venus will be almost 28 degrees below Jupiter, but the next night, Tuesday the 14th, Valentine’s night Venus will be 27 degrees away or two full moon widths closer to Jupiter. The next night, Wednesday the 15th, Venus and Jupiter will be 2 moons closer again, Thursday night more of the same and Friday night yet again.  

DEAN: Venus is moving fast through the sky from night to night and will keep getting closer to Jupiter each night until they pass each other around March 12th. Venus and Jupiter have a close pass every year or so, but they’re not always so well placed for you to see it. The next close pass will be in May next year, but they’ll not be so high above the sun. So be sure to catch this one while it lasts.

JAMES: Look due South between the hours of 8 and 9 p.m. and you'll see the star we call the Valentine's Day star because it's very bright and very red and is in fact the brightest red star we can see with the naked eye from planet earth. And just coincidentally, it reaches its highest point above the horizon every Valentine's Day night between the hours of 8 and 9 p.m.

DEAN: It marks the shoulder star of Orion the hunter and is named Betelgeuse. And if you've ever wanted to give your loved one a really big valentine, well this is about as big as it gets. Because if we compare Betelgeuse the Valentine's Day star with our own star, our 865,000 mile wide sun, Betelgeuse is so humongous we could fit over 160 million of our suns inside it.

JAMES: And that's when Betelgeuse is at its smallest size because Betelgeuse shrinks and expands regularly like a gigantic slowly pulsating heart, one that beats however only once every 6 years. When Betelgeuse is fully contracted at its smallest size, it is about 500 times the width of our sun. But when it expands to its biggest, it is almost 900 times as wide. In fact if we could place Betelgeuse where our sun is Betelgeuse at its smallest would reach out past the orbits of mercury, Venus and Earth all the way to Mars and when it's at its largest would stretch all the way to Jupiter. Wow!

DEAN: And continuing our Valentine’s theme, after you’ve seen Betelgeuse look in to the east for another red Valentine’s light in the sky, the red planet Mars. Mars will brighten rapidly as it comes closer to opposition in early March and we will move about 10 million miles closer to Mars this month.

JAMES: And just above Mars is the constellation Leo the lion. Leo is a big pattern of stars marked especially by the backwards question mark of stars that define his head and the triangle of stars that mark his rear. The bright blue star Regulus marks his heart. And I especially want you to pay close attention to how far Mars is from Regulus.

DEAN: On Valentine’s Day night Mars will be about 20 degrees from Regulus, but over the next 6 weeks or so, Mars will appear to back across the sky and by early April will be only about 4 degrees away from Regulus. Mars will actually seem to back up in its orbit and get closer and closer to Regulus.  Why?? Think about it.

JAMES: So there you have it, Venus and Jupiter shining like two diamonds in the evening sky, a red planet behaving strangely and Betelgeuse, a giant red star slowly beating like a heavenly heart for your sweetheart. Is this a romantic cosmos or what?

BOTH: Keep looking up!


Episode #12-06 "Make This Valentine's Day Cosmic With A Gift Of Stars And Planets"
Air Dates February 6- February 12, 2012

JAMES: Valentine's Day night give your sweetheart two planets, which look like two diamonds in the evening sky plus the Valentine's Day star.


DEAN: Just after sunset, face west and you’ll easily spot two brilliant points of light, the planets Venus and Jupiter. They will keep getting closer each night for the rest of the month. Wow!

JAMES: Between 8 and 9, look due south and the bright red shoulder star of Orion, Betelgeuse, will be at its highest as the Valentine's Day star. It pulses like a gigantic heart and we could fit over 160 million of our suns inside it. At its smallest size it's 500 times the width of our sun and at its biggest 900 times as wide.

DEAN: Then look east for a bright red point of light, the red planet Mars. So give your loved one a red super star, a red planet and two planets that look like diamonds for Valentine's Day. Keep looking up!


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