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The Sky This Week, 2017 December 19 - 2018 January 2

Holiday greetings from the USNO.
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 solstice will fall on the 21st day,
The Sun’s southernmost point on his orbital way.
The year’s longest nights are upon us right now
But they start to get longer when the Yule log’s aglow.

The Moon is now waxing through autumn’s dim lights
Her fattening crescent rises higher each night.
First Quarter Moon on Christmas Night falls
Then fills out to Full when New Year’s Night calls.

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.
With the solstice upon us we’ll all soon be 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.
Red Mars chases Jupiter as first dawn light appears
He’ll catch the old gasbag two weeks into the New Year.

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 soon 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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