The coldest night of the year this Friday: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Jan 16, 2017

Waning crescent sweeps past Jupiter and Spica at Feast of St Agnes

Tradition holds that the coldest night of the year will happen this week Friday, January 20th, which is known as the “Eve of St. Agnes.”

You might think that we can’t know which night is the coldest of the year until after the season ends and we’ve tallied all the temperatures, but here’s the story behind the tradition that says it happens every year on January 20th:  January 21 is the Feast of St Agnes, who lived at the end of the third century. Agnes was only 12 years old when she refused to marry the son of a Roman official who had set his eye on her for his wife, claiming instead that she had chosen to dedicate herself to a Christian life. And despite being sentenced to death at such a young age, she refused to denounce her religion. Over the centuries there were many miracles attributed to Agnes, and eventually she became known as the patron saint of engaged couples.  But how does any of this connect her to the coldest night of the year? It might be that the weather gets coldest outside when the intense heat of burning passion and unmet desire needs to be balanced within! And here’s what else: If you go supperless to bed on the eve of St Agnes, and sleep on your back in the light of the Moon with your hands beneath your head, then you will have a dream of your beloved. What’s more, the ancient lovers Venus and Mars will grace the evening sky for over two hours after sunset Friday evening, ramping up the romance factor until the Moon rises up at 2:30 am, waning through crescent phase as it sweeps past the brilliant planet Jupiter and the star Spica, in the region of Virgo, like St Agnes, a maiden. Also, though the longest night of the year is already a month behind us, January is t          typically the coldest month of the year, and this Friday may very well be the coldest of all!