12 February 2011

The Winter Sky Beckons

The Winter Sky beckons me to stop what I am doing and pay attention, for the view of the heavens in this magical season is unlike any other. Here in San Francisco, when it is not raining (as was the case for most of January through today), the air is dry and the atmosphere clear, giving the casual observer sparkling vistas into the heavens. And as this kind of weather happens with regularity in the winter, and the hours of darkness are at their maximum, it is all but impossible to miss the winter sky.

Evenings right now are dominated by the slowly fading planet Jupiter high in the west at sunset, and the colorful bright stars of Orion high in the southern sky, Canis Major and Sirius to the lower left of Orion, and Taurus and Aldeberan to the upper right of Orion. Facing north, the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia trade places every 24 hours, circling Polaris, the North Star. And later in the night to the east are a variety of treasures in Virgo with Saturn in the vicinity. Two weeks ago the morning sky featured the old Moon passing through Scorpios and Sagittarius, creating beautiful alignments that accented the eastern horizon at dawn.

The most important thing to do, if you want to see these amazing sky spectacles, is to keep your eyes open and look up - - nothing more than that is necessary to be captivated by the spell of the sky. No need for a telescope or binoculars. This time of year the stars dazzle in the night, and appear to be asking all of us to take a moment to contemplate their majesty and come to appreciate the universe, awaiting your view each night of the year.


Sidewalk Universe said...

Hi Paul. Yes indeed the winter sky is a treat with so many bright "marker stars" to guide the way and a busy ecliptic sky in the morning with our summer constellations.

So much to see with just our eyes, minds, and heart!

Enjoy your winter S.F. sky!!!!

The Urban Astronomer said...

Thanks for the comment, Richard. I hope the Nevada skies are treating you right. Here's to clear skies!

-- Paul