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The Sky This Week, 2011 December 20 - 2012 January 3

Our annual "homage" (and apologies) to Clement Clark Moore

Season's Greetings!

‘Tis the Night Before Christmas and high overhead

The Great Winter Circle helps guide Santa’s sled.

The year’s last New Moon on the 24th falls,

To give us dark sky-scapes fit to enthrall.


The long winter’s night on the 22nd 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.


In the southwest bright Venus burns bright in the dusk,

She climbs ever higher in skies tinged with rust.

The planet of beauty will light up our eves

As she beckons from trees now empty of leaves.


Old Jupiter shines in the south 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 quite a show.


In the east planet Mars by the midnight hour rises

To the wonder of those whose new telescopes spy him.

His north polar cap should be easy to sight,

While his vast ruddy deserts bathe in Old Sol’s pale light.


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.


Fleet Mercury greets us in the light before dawn,

He’ll hang for two weeks ‘til the old year has gone.

The swiftest of planets, never easy to spy

Can be seen with binoculars raised to the eye.


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!

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