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The Sky This Week, 2016 December 20 - 27

Our annual look at the holiday sky, in verse!
The celestial wreath, NGC 2244, aka the "Rosette Nebula"
imaged from Morattico, VA, on 2015 February 14.

'Tis the Night Before Christmas and up in the dome
We eagerly wait for the nightfall to come.
The slit has been opened, the lens cap’s been stowed
The night sky awaits like a wide-open road.

The New Moon ensures that a dark sky appears;
We’ll have this condition through the end of the year.
The Milky Way shines in the absence of light
So enjoy it on these nights to add to your cheers.

Bright Venus shines in the twilight’s last glow,
Her dazzling brilliance a shadow can throw.
Red Mars stares down from the Sea-Goat’s sparse sky
While keeping an eye out as Venus draws nigh.

The Great Winter Circle shines bright in the night
With bright stars a-twinkling with all of their might.
Their colors add contrast to enhance the dark sky
While far down below they’re a treat for 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 long 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.

The stars of the springtime rise late in the night
With a couple of planets to cause you delight.
Great Jupiter rises as Spica appears
And is high in the southeast as dawn’s light draws near.

Old Jove is a treat for new telescope fans,
A glittering gem with his striking cloud bands;
His four brightest moons are always at play
With a different arrangement on each passing day.

The first stars of summer rise just before dawn
With the ringed planet Saturn tagging along.
Saturn will be with us all summer next year
A treat to look out for when warm nights are here.

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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