Hopefully, the jack-in-the-box aurora that popped out last night will return tonight. Skywatchers in the northern states should check the northern horizon between about 9 and midnight (CST) tonight (Feb. 19) for arcs and movement. Whether the northern lights shimmy back or decline to show, you can always count on the planets.
Tomorrow morning at dawn if you face southeast you’ll see three planets lined up with the crescent moon in conjunction with Saturn. This may be the best time to catch an early view of the ringed planet because the moon will shine about 2.5° below the planet. Find the moon, and you’re guaranteed Saturn. Make sure your view to the southeast is unobstructed and look starting about an hour before sunrise.
Traditionally, the morning crescent is known as the “old moon” because it’s been aging ever since it was new, nearly four weeks ago. By the time we see it as a thin crescent at dawn it’s no spring chicken. I like how we relate to the moon, giving it animal or human like characteristics and habits. It’s a soulless place, barren as hell and terrifyingly unfriendly to living beings. But there’s beauty and even romance in its light, the way it spills across a bed in a darkened room or lights our path at night. We pull off the road to watch a moonrise and describe the monthly lunar cycle as an aging process. I
While the moon has true physical effects on the Earth including the tides, sea turtle migration and the slowing of the planet’s rotation through its mutual gravitational interaction with the Earth, most of us relate to the moon aesthetically or spiritually. Science-minded though I am I have a deep love for these kind of connections that make the cosmos part of our daily life.
Nature simply is. Uncovering its subtleties and interconnections through the application of science is one of the humanity’s greatest callings and informs our appreciation. Finding a personal connection is equally important and gratifying. When we establish a relationship with nature we can’t help but want to respect and preserve it.