WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #13-05 "The Three M's of February"
Air Dates Febtuary 4, 2013 - February 10, 2013

DEAN: Hey there Star Gazers. I'm Dean Regas, astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory.

MARLENE: I'm Marlene Hidalgo, science teacher from Miami Dade County Florida.

JAMES: And I'm James Albury from the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, in Gainesville Florida

DEAN: Every year close to Valentine's Day, we like to show you how to find a brilliant red star sometimes called the Valentine's Day star, so you can share something beautiful and cosmic with your sweetheart.

MARLENE: But this year we have some very special added cosmic attractions for Valentine's Day night, the two M&M planets playing in the west at sunset along with the moon plus the super bright king of the planets.†

JAMES: So this year you can show your loved one a bunch of jewel-like cosmic Valentines and all can be seen in early evening.


MARLENE: O.K., we've got our skies set up for Monday night, February 11th. Itís
Valentine's week, just after sunset facing west, and you will see a pair of planets just below a super skinny two-day old crescent moon. The uppermost and brighter 'M' is pinkish Mercury. The lower one, the dimmer 'M', is Mars.

DEAN: Now Mercury will climb higher above Mars each night. Let's go night by night and watch the show. Here's the 11th with the crescent moon about 6 degrees above Mercury. The next night, the 12th, the moon will have moved across a big chunk of sky while Mercury will have climbed just a bit. The next night, the 13th, the moon will have moved another big jump with Mercury just a bit higher. Then Valentine's night the 14th we'll be looking at a 5-day old waxing moon well above Mars and Mercury.

JAMES: So you have two reddish pink cosmic jewels to present, Mercury and Mars. To see the third, simply look south at 8 p.m. and you'll see the star I call the Valentine's Day star because it's very bright and very red. And just coincidentally reaches its highest point above the horizon every Valentine's week at 8 p.m. It is in fact the brightest red star we can see with the naked eye from planet Earth. It marks the shoulder star of Orion the hunter and its name is Betelgeuse.


MARLENE: And if you've ever wanted to give your loved one a really big Valentine, this is about as big as it ever gets. In fact if we compare Betelgeuse with our own star, our 865,000-mile wide sun, Betelgeuse is so humongous we could fit over 160 million suns inside it.

JAMES: (SPACE BOARD) And that's when Betelgeuse is at its smallest size because Betelgeuse changes its size regularly like a gigantic slowly pulsating Valentine heart, one that beats however only once every 6 years. When Betelgeuse is fully contracted at its smallest size it is a whopping 500 times the width of our sun but when it expands to its biggest size it is a super 900 times as wide.


DEAN: (SPACE BOARD) In fact, if we could place Betelgeuse where our sun is, Betelgeuse, at its smallest, contracted size would reach out past the orbits of Mercury, Venus and Earth all the way to Mars. And when it's at its largest it would stretch almost all the way to Jupiter. Wow!


MARLENE: But wait, there's another bright gem in the night sky we haven't discussed yet. Look up and to the right of Betelgeuse for the brightest white point of light in the evening sky, the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is quite close to the bright red star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull.

JAMES: Do you remember us telling you that the word planet means wandering star? Well over the next two months you'll have a great chance to watch Jupiter wander across the sky. Use Aldebaran as a reference.

DEAN: Here's how Jupiter's gonna move. Valentine's Day, St. Patrickís day, and Earth Day. Jupiter wanders pretty fast, huh?

MARLENE: So there you have it! In the west the M&M planets, Mercury and Mars† will be dancing in the evening twilight all month long. The bright wandering star Jupiter high in the south and the biggest cosmic Valentine you'll ever see, a giant red star slowly beating like a heavenly heart for the one you love. Is this a romantic cosmos or what?

ALL: Keep looking up!


Episode #13-05 "The Three M's of February"
Air Dates Febtuary 4, 2013 - February 10, 2013

MARLENE: Want to give your sweetheart the biggest, reddest Valentine ever?


DEAN:† Go outside with your honey any night Valentine's Day week between 8 and 9 p.m. face due south, and you'll see the brightest red star visible to the naked eye from planet Earth at its highest point above the horizon. It's the shoulder star of Orion the Hunter and is named Betelgeuse.

MARLENE: (ON SKY BOARD) It slowly pulsates like a giant heart and is so huge that if we could place it where our sun is it would reach past Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, and when fully expanded, all the way to out to Jupiter.


DEAN: Up to the right of Betelgeuse is the giant planet Jupiter. And low in the west after sunset you can spot a pair of planets, Mercury and Mars.

MARLENE: So this Valentine's Day, give the biggest Valentine of all, a giant red star. Pulsing like a heart full of cosmic love.

BOTH: Keep looking up!



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