Sunday, October 14, 2012

Night sky puts on a show for free

When I walked to the end of the driveway to retrieve the morning paper a few days ago, a celestial light show greeted me. Just above the eastern horizon, the crescent moon and the planet Venus aligned on a perfect plane just a few degrees above the treeline. The moon's crescent tips pointed upward, looking like the bright rim of a water basin against the black sky.

As I turned back toward the house, I looked to the south and found Orion, the hunter, stalking game across the celestial plains, followed by his loyal hunting dogs, always just a few degrees east and south of the hunter's belt. Above and facing Orion was Taurus, with bright stars outlining the bull's horns and one additional jewel in the constellation. Directly overhead, Jupiter had settled in its wanderings between the tips of Taurus' fearsome horns.

Soon, as the morning's chill seeps into the daytime and the nights go from chilly to frigid, Orion and his dogs will confront Taurus in the evening sky. Then the winter sky show will be available for all to see, not just those who rise before sunrise. The dry, clear winter sky will sparkle with the fabled characters' bright jewels, and I will stare in appreciation as human eyes have stared — and human brains imagined — for thousands of years at the wonder of the universe displayed in points of light.

No comments: