The Sky This Week, 2012 December 18 - 25
Jupiter with Europa (left) & Callisto,
‘Tis the Night Before Christmas and high overhead
The Great Winter Circle helps guide Santa’s sled.
The First Quarter Moon on the 20th falls,
To brighten long nights that envelop us all.
The year’s longest night on the 21st passes
As the Sun on the solstice shines low on the masses.
By New Year’s the days are beginning to gain
And the promise of spring makes the night hours wane.
Old Jupiter shines in the east at dusk’s end
The evening’s the best time to view our large friend.
His four bright moons dance back and forth, to and fro
While his sinuous cloud belts put on a great show.
Orion’s now rising high in the southeast,
Shield raised in defiance of Taurus the beast.
The Great Winter Circle surrounds his bold shape,
While faithful dog Canis leaps up in his wake.
Late night brings Sirius, the Dog Star on high,
By New Year’s he transits as midnight draws nigh.
The brightest of stars warm the long winter’s night,
His cohorts all add to the breathtaking sight.
Nine of the brightest of stars in the sky,
Light these dark nights of winter as Old Sol plays shy.
But the solstice is past us and now we are glad,
For the days getting longer than the ones we’ve just had.
By morning comes Saturn, a golden-hued glow
Who rises with bright springtime stars in his tow.
His rings are now opening, much to our delight,
Set among his faint moons he’s a marvelous sight.
In the southeast bright Venus burns bright in the dawn,
But she slips ever lower in skies pale and wan.
She heralds the sunrise through early next year
Before passing conjunction as springtime draws near.
So Peace to your families, neighbors and friends
We wish you the best that the holiday sends.
The stars mark the comings and goings of time,
So stop to enjoy them, now so ends my rhyme.
Happy Holidays from all of us at the U.S. Naval Observatory!