Above our heads some simple happenings, nothing in the way of great meteors nor planetary magic, still I thought I'd tell you what we're entering the next few days - after this, the longest night of the year, has finally come to an end here in North America. I had a most fitful evening and will post about it sometime.
Are you feeling a bit of malaise, melancholy perhaps, even sad? Have a tendency to sleep more than usual? There's an odd reasoning which originates in the closing of a year for humans, who need the seasons and don't want to see the "last" one end, for it means the unknown future, and that is nothing but ancestral fear, revisited. You're in good company. Now: Onto the stars....
Saturday: Now that winter has officially begun, Luna has met the Pleiades. At dusk, North Americans with binocs will get a great view of her, nearly full, just finishing her crossing of this cluster. Northern Europeans will get an even better view tonight the 22nd, and tomorrow, as the Moon occults the Pleiades high up and late in the evening. Look far to her right for a look at two great stars, Aldabaran in an orange hue, and yellowish Capella, as in the map above.
There's a very slight chance of the weak Ursids passing through (they originate from Comet Tuttle) and if it happens, it'll be around 5 PM EST (22h UT). The radiant is in Ursa Minor, so if they're coming, it'll be from that constellation.
Sunday: This is when Mars and a full Luna shine very close together, should be a wonderful sight. They're both very close to opposition of the sun, and Mars will appear dusky. The full moon will occult (cover) Mars completely if you're looking from the northwest tip of the US, or north and eastern Europe much later tonight, into the 25th. Once again, my European friends won't get this view.
Monday: Around sunset, Mars will be at opposition and highest overhead around midnight. He'll be the spot of orange light shining to the upper right of Luna.
Christmas star: Odd they call it this, wonder why. Anyway you know the "dog star" Sirius, it'll be brilliant, the brightest star in the visible sky, rising around 7 or 8 PM in the Northern hemisphere. Watch for it in Orion's Belt. One thing about Sirius, it twinkles (which is really space dust floating across its path) but it's quite a show as it changes in color as it blinks. Binocs show this very nicely. Mars will outshine Sirius just a bit this week, but Mars doesn't "twinkle" lol.
Tuesday: Merry Sol Invictus! Sweet Saturnalia! And a very happy Christmas to all! This day, as explained in the previous post, is the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. We celebrate the sun's survival past another dark solstice with the promise of light and warmth in the spring and summer. Christianity has chosen to mark this date, after chosing many others over time, as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing in the universe that isn't a fascination and a miracle to dwell upon. Here in this one, tiny, tilted galaxy among bilions of others, we have even more billions of stars, and how many planets are orbiting those stars like our sun is just unfathomable. May we always be as children on Christmas morn when looking into the heavens.