February Skys

Earth Reaches Midpoint in Orbit Between Solstice and Equinox:

February 2nd is an astronomical Cross-Quarter Day, one of four days in the year when the Earth is midway between the the Equinoxes and the Solstices. This month's Cross-Quarter Day is called Groundhog Day in the USA, and I'll bet that 99.9% of the population has no idea of its astronomical origins. I'll bet that even in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania they don't know about them. The age-old tradition of watching the passage of the Sun in the heavens to know when to plant early crops and begin sending the cows and sheep out to summer grazing lands was handed down from the early Celts (who called the day Imbolog), to the Roman legions, and thence to the Medieval Church (who called the day Candlemas).

These early peoples also watched hibernating animals to see what they would do on or about this day. If they came out from their sleep and stayed up, it was time to begin the early planting. But if they went back into their dens, then winter was to last a while longer. When the first German immigrants came from Europe to Pennsylvania, they brought with them these beliefs and traditions. It was the honorable American groundhog who subsequently was endowed with the ability to predict the coming of Spring.

So, on February 2nd, when you're watching your favorite news program and the story airs about a little town called Punxsutawney, and you watch the antics of grown men who should know better, and a little animal who doesn't, no matter what the groundhog ends up doing, smile wisely to yourself like the ancients did and remember that it's only 47 more days till the Vernal Equinox.

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