This month, in honor of Valentine's Day, we look at celestial star pairs and constellation couples.


What's Up for February?

Let's look at some celestial pairs in honor of Valentine's Day.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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 a sea serpent, he rescued her. As a reward, her parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia allowed Perseus to marry Andromeda.

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. Draw an imaginary line through his belt stars to the Pleiades, and watch him chase them across the sky forever.

A pair of star clusters is 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 supergiant stars in each of the clusters.

There are some colorful 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 super-giant Rigel and 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 the 26th.

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That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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