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The Sky This Week, 2019 December 20 - 2020 January 7

Time for a long winter's nap, with apologies to Clement Clark Moore!
Happy Holidays from the U.S. Naval Observatory!
Happy Holidays from the U.S. Naval Observatory!

‘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 waning through spring’s rising stars

Her slimming crescent will soon pass by Mars.

New Moon occurs as Boxing Day falls

Then fills out to her crescent as New Year’s Night calls.


Bright Venus shines down in the twilight’s last glow,

Her dazzling brilliance a shadow can throw.

As she climbs through the stars of the Sea-Goat’s sparse sky

She’ll stay bright in the evenings ‘til summer 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.

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 singular planet to cause you delight.

Red Mars moves southeastward toward Antares’ glow

He’ll pass north of his rival next month as he goes.


The first stars of summer rise just before dawn

With the ringed Old Jove and Saturn soon tagging along.

These bright worlds 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.