This is a great week to wake your children early and peer into the sky. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are visible to the naked eye. Binoculars or a small telescope will allow you to see Uranus and Neptune. Any camera with a telephoto lens should be able to capture all 6 at once.
For the last two months, almost all the planets have been hiding behind the sun, but this week they all emerge and are arrayed in a grand line above the rising sun.
[Source, LiveScience, Six Planets Now Aligned in the Dawn Sky by Geoff Gaherty]
Picture credit: Starry Night Software. Picture borrowed from LiveScience
Inspire your children. Awe them with the wonders of the universe. Arise early. Hear the birds. See the planets.
If you get confused looking at objects in the sky, consider the iPhone/iPad app "GoSkyWatch" It is undeniably one of my favorite applications. I spent most of my life with astronomy books unsure if I was correctly identifying objects in the sky. GoSkyWatch removes all doubt, adds factoids, and makes star gazing so much more fun. [Link to app]
I know some of you get twitches in your toes with the weather is changing, or migraines when the storm is approaching. The full moon sets me off. Perhaps there’s a little werewolf in me. As Luna grows large, I am struck with insomnia, passionate energy, and animalism. Tonight promises to be quite sleepless.
This lunar eclipse falls on the date of the northern winter solstice. How rare is that? Total lunar eclipses in northern winter are fairly common. There have been three of them in the past ten years alone. A lunar eclipse smack-dab on the date of the solstice, however, is unusual. Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years. "Since Year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is 1638 DEC 21," says Chester. "Fortunately we won’t have to wait 372 years for the next one…that will be on 2094 DEC 21." [Source, NASA Science, Solstice Lunar Eclipse]