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The Sky This Week, 2010 December 21 - 31

Our annual Homage to Clement Clark Moore
Total Lunar Eclipse, 2010 December 21, 07:46 UT
Imaged from Alexandria, VA, USA with a Canon
PowerShot S2IS digital camera

‘Tis the Night Before Christmas and high in the sky
The stars are a-twinkling sight for the eye.
The Moon from the Earth’s umbral shadow returns
Then slides on by Saturn as the old year adjourns.

The Last Quarter Moon in the morning sky wanes
On the 27th evening that phase she attains,
Moving from winter to spring’s rising stars
By the New Year she’s close to the Rival of Mars.

Old Jupiter shines in the south and southwest
Early evening’s the time when he’s still at his best.
His four bright moons dance back and forth, to and fro
The return of a dark belt is causing a show.

The ringed planet Saturn is high up at dawn
His rings are now opening; last year they were gone.
A giant white spot has appeared on his face,
Early risers with telescopes try to keep pace.

In the gathering twilight bright Venus does flare
To dazzle the pre-sunrise hours with her stare.
She’s brightest right now in the morning sky’s light
But soon after the New Year she’ll fade from our sight.

Orion is 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.

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, and so ends my rhyme.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the U.S. Naval Observatory!

And my most sincere apologies to Clement Clark Moore.


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