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Practically Up There

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The Practical AstronomerSince two full moons ago, only one night in seven has been clear enough for us to see the moon. Yet I always know where the moon is relative to the sun and the stars and our horizons, and I always know whether our moon ascends or descends and when it stands still and when it crosses over, and I always know whether it has come closer to us or is farther away, and I don’t need to see it to know. Even so, the moon is always a welcome sight, even when it is so close and full that its light makes nearby stars as invisible as on a cloudy night.

And since Jupiter went retrograde back in early December, we’ve had little opportunity to watch the majestic giant back away from Regulus. Yet from the rare evening clear enough to catch the planet rising to the morning clear enough to watch it fade to the sunrise, I can tell the hour of day by its path across our winter night, and I can tell how far we’ve gone into the season by how far the planet leads Leo. Still, Jupiter is always beautiful to witness so bright overhead, and this winter on clear nights it has become the first wanderer I turn to see.

And we’ve had mostly clouds and rain through the past dozen cycles of Algol. Yet as easily as knowing dawn and dusk I can tell when the demon winks, and I know where Medusa’s head floats even during winter’s daytime when it crosses over the other side of our earth, and I know it’s a glimpse of Algol I’m catching even if it’s the only star peeking through a passing break in our clouds. Nevertheless I love having skies open enough to trace the path I love to trace from Saiph through Bellatrix all the way over to Cassiopeia, then back to this fave.

The practical astronomer? The practical stargazer deals with winters such as this, when the sun and the moon and the stars and the meteor showers and everything else there is to see cannot be seen most of the time. Ah, but I never tire of the view.

And as I have said, I can never have too many books on my night sky, even if I come across one that has nothing to tell me that I don’t already know. So, delighted to use the book gift card given to me by Natalie at Christmas for another book on stargazing: The Practical Astronomer, by Brian Jones.

Thank you yet again, Nat, for a Christmas gift that will give me as many moments of pleasure as there are stars on a clear Houston night.

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - grolier

 
 

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Written by macheide

13 January 2015 at 6:12 am

Posted in grolier

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