Moon and Mars
Valentine's Day is a time for romance -- a time for love -- which, human nature being what it is, sometimes leads to hurt, jealousy -- and war. And, as luck would have it, symbols of love and war put on a nice display in tonight's sky.
The symbols are the Moon and Mars. They're high overhead at nightfall, and slide down the western sky later on. Mars looks like a bright orange star well to the east of the Moon.
The Moon, of course, represents love. It's inspired poets, musicians, and many others to compose odes to love, and to their loved ones.
In Greek mythology, the Moon represented the goddess Selene, who had many love affairs. Her greatest love was the shepherd Endymion. She seduced him, then cast a spell so that he would never age, but would sleep forever. Her rays "kiss" him every night.
Mars, on the other hand, is the Roman version of Ares, the Greek god of war. Early skywatchers named the planet because of its reddish color, which reminded them of blood -- and battle. Ares was a fearless leader of men, but the war god became especially bloody in Roman mythology -- a take-no-prisoners kind of guy who fought some gory battles.
So love and war mingle with each other in tonight's Valentine sky. Look for them high overhead in early evening, and low in the northwest in the wee hours of the morning. The Moon sets first, around 2:30 or 3, with Mars following about an hour later.
We'll have more about Mars and the Moon tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2007
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.