The waning Moon doesn’t rise until a few minutes after midnight, allowing dark evening skies to reveal the splendors of the Milky Way arched over the top of the sky. Early this evening, in the midst of the Milky Way and directly overhead near 8:20 PM, the star Capella sparkles as the 4th brightest star we can see.

Ground Hog Day may appear to have nothing to do with the sky, but in fact, the date marks the traditional half-way point from the Winter Solstice to the Spring Equinox. Early calendars did not have fixed months the way we do today, so this date floated. Calendar reforms by Julius Caesar eventually specified this as a “cross-quarter” day, as we cross into the second half of winter quarter of the year.

Over the next few mornings, from 6 o’clock until the twilight brightens by 6:30, a waning Crescent of a Moon offers early risers a few arrangements with the star Antares, and the delightful but departing Venus, low in the southeast. The displays start tomorrow, with the red star Antares, the “heart” of the Scorpion, to the left of the Moon, normally seen on summer evenings.