Valentine’s day is coming fast. If you’re too late for a poem and too broke for an expensive ring, here’s your chance to impress your better-half in the last minute: showing her (or him) the stars above your head. To relieve you from the effort of making up constellations like you do every other time, here are the three most common constellations you need to know to impress your partner this Valentine’s Day.
Southern Cross and the Pointer Stars
– While this iconic constellation is on our flag, not many Australians can point out at the Southern Cross in the Sky. The cross – the smallest of the 88 constellations – is actually made of four bright stars displaying the shape of a diamond. If you stare at the sky long enough, you will be able to see many diamonds in the sky (especially on Valentine’s day!) and you’ll lose your (milky) way.
– Fortunately, the Southern Cross is located just nearby two bright stars called Alpha Centauri (Hadar) and Beta Centauri (Rigel Kent). These two jewels have been called the “Pointers” or “Pointer stars”, because they are pointing to the Southern Cross. So instead of looking at the Southern Cross alone, look for this asterism, this combination of stars made of the Southern Cross and The Pointers. After you’ve found it once, you’ll never be able to un-see it ever again!
– Brownie-point fact: Alpha Centauri is actually the closest star to Earth. With the current spacecrafts, it would take about 100,000 years to get there.
Orion the Hunter
– Orion is another iconic constellation located close to the celestial equator. Therefore it is visible both in the Northern and the Southern hemispheres and on Valentine’s day, it should be right above your head at the zenith. The easiest way to find Orion is to find three stars that are aligned and evenly spaced. These three stars make Orion’s belt. Once you’ve got the belt, look for four bright stars vastly spread around the belt in a rectangular shape. These stars mark the outline of Orion’s body
– Now take a look at the belt again. With an angle of about 45° to the belt you should be able to spot three stars aligned once again. This is Orion’s sword. Follow the direction of the belt in one way until you find a bright star: you’ve found Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
Taurus & The Seven Sisters
– Keep following Orion’s belt on the opposite side of Sirius. You’ll come across two V-shaped lines of starts that are part of the constellation Taurus – the bull. Those stars are nothing else that the two eyes and the muzzle of the bull.
– Continue about the same distance and in the same direction, and you will see a bunch of stars all together in a patch of the sky. These are the notorious Seven Sisters, an open cluster made of seven stars born together in the same cloud of dust and gas, and present in mythologies of all civilisations across the globe, including Australia’s very own dreamtime.
– Brownie-point fact: being able to tell the story of Orion and the Seven Sisters as once told by the Aboriginal people of the Ooldea region of the Great Victoria Desert.
Now that you know your stars really well, it’s time to escape in nature and get lost to gaze the sky hand in hand with you loved one. And if you can’t remember any of that, you can just both lie down on the ground and dare that the first one to see a shooting star will have to kiss the other.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Rewildin team