2019, December 21-22: Venus, A Solstice Evening Walk, and Mars in Morning Sky


Solstice evening brought a clear, cobalt-stained sky after a biting, cloudy beginning of the day.  Brilliant Venus appeared in the southwest among the trees.

Later in the evening, a walk under a clear, dark firmament showed the magnificence of an early winter sky.  Majestic Sirius twinkled wildly above the horizon.  Reddish Betelgeuse – dimmer than usual – and sapphire-blue Rigel stood regally above the night sky’s brightest star.  Reliable Procyon appeared with more height than the grandest star.

Higher above Betelgeuse, ruddy Aldebaran overlooked the scene with the Bull’s horns pointed toward Auriga and Capella.  Nearby, the Gemini Twins seemed alone watching Sirius’ great gleam.

The pack of Pleiades appeared too high for convenient view, although they seemed to be pulling this bright Winter Congregation westward.

The Great Square spread across the western sky with a strand of Andromeda’s stars pointing toward Perseus and Cassiopeia.  The Great Spiral, though, seemed lost in the creeping glow of a nearby city.  Deneb, that grand star of the Swan and Summer, lingered in the northwest.

The Grand Dipper climbed into the northeast, with the magic Pointers leading us to the star that never moves, Polaris.  Its position showed us, though, that the road where we walked was not due north or straight as we first perceived.  That dipper was using its muscle to help us see that Leo’s rising was near.

Before retracing our steps to retire for the evening, the glow of Orion’s stellar incubators blazed forth to our dark-adapted eyes.

Younger voices leaned in to hear the stories of the stars and inquire about the great celestial mysteries.

Next morning clear skies prevailed again.  As the new day grew in the southeast, the crescent moon stood above the pincers of the ancient scorpion, with Mars not far away.  The gleam of the Red Planet was not what many expected.  It’s not the fiery orb of science fiction.  Rather, it showed as a somewhat bright reddish star, not as bright as we might expect when it is near our home world.

Now Leo was in the sky, tilting westward.  Only the arc of Procyon, the Gemini Twins, and the Goat Star remained in the western sky from last night’s awe-inspiring display.  Spica and Arcturus sparsely marked the morning glory, unlike that celestial opera we saw last night.

Vega, now, appeared higher in the northeast with Deneb lower near the horizon, this morning’s position much different from last night.

The sky soon filled with sunlight. Our central star seems to always win over our dimmer and more distant celestial suns.  Until the next time when there’s a walk under the dark star-filled sky in that special place where the road does not run true north to south.





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