The Sky This Week , December 24 – 31, 2013 !

The Sky This Week, 2013 December 24 – 31
Our annual “homage” (and sincere apologies) to Clement Clark Moore…
Winter Solstice Moonrise, USNO 2013

Winter Solstice Moonrise at the USNO

‘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.

Bright Venus still shines in the soft twilight glow

In the southwestern sky as the Sun sinks below.

By New Year’s she starts her fast plunge from the sky

By mid-January she’ll wave her good-bye.

That’s Jupiter rising as twilight descends

In the northeast with Castor and all of his friends,

Old Jove will delight you the whole evening long

He’ll keep up the dazzle once Venus has gone.

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.

In the east planet Mars will by midnight arise

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 well tilted to our line of sight

In the telescope eyepiece they are a delight.

As the first rays of twilight mark evening’s swan song

The crescent Moon wanes in the southeast at dawn.

Next year will begin with New Moon on Day One

So enjoy the dark sky while she hides from the Sun.

With 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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