It was late and I was feeling a bit tired and grumpy because I had to do one more task that I really don’t ever enjoy. My husband and I had to drive to our mechanic, 20 minutes away, to pick up one of our cars that had needed a repair. I usually put myself into “automatic mode” to get the job done.
But last night was different. It was bitingly cold and the air was as crisp and fresh as it can be on a winter night. As I stepped out the door and headed toward the car, my eyes were immediately drawn to a spectacular display in the sky. A constellation was hovering almost directly above that was familiar but I wasn’t sure of its name. I thought it might be called “the archer.” It’s a constellation I have never seen so clearly and fully as I did then and I was anxious to get the car so I could come back home and search for it on the internet. In addition to that constellation, there were others that were also very visible, but again I wasn’t confident about knowing which ones they were.
As we drove I chattered to my husband about the surprise in the sky and it was he who suggested we look for it on the internet. As soon as we returned home I jumped out of the car, and yes, there it was, shining as brilliantly as before. I cast my eyes over the skyscape, in search of the other constellations I had seen and they were still there as well. I hurried into the house to solve the mystery.
There are, as it turns out, quite a few websites devoted to “constellations in the sky tonight.” (See below) After browsing through a few, I learned that it was, indeed, Orion that was on full display in the sky. I have often seen the three stars that configure Orion’s Belt and have pointed to them saying,,,”there’s Orion,” but never before have I seen Orion in his full glory. I also learned that Orion is often referred to as the Hunter (not as the Archer as I had previously thought).
On the internet I learned that Cassiopeia was not too distant from Orion, so I went back outside and found it, too! I was on a roll. Cassiopeia is like a big, stretched out W in the sky. Easy to find and identify. The final mystery was the very bright star glittering in the eastern sky. From past experience I knew that such a bright star usually means I am looking at a planet. The internet showed me I was right. I was looking at Jupiter which is very prominent in the night sky at this time of the year.
I came back into the house feeling very proud of myself and energized by the wonders I had seen. I have been skywatching for a long time, but the skies on Long Island are often cloudy due to the ever present humidity and the very changeable weather we have here. This was a gift…to be able to see so many constellations at once and to see them so clearly.
I did feel sad about one thing, however. The website I was reading also told me there would be a lunar eclipse and meteor showers between 1am and 3am clearly visible in our skies. Every August I make a vain attempt to see the Perseids which is another meteor shower that happens annually, and every year I am disappointed because the skies are so cloudy and impenetrable. This would have been the perfect opportunity to catch a meteor shower but I had to get up early for a 9am doctor’s appointment, so I couldn’t stay up to see them.
When I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought about was the eclipse and the meteor showers. I wondered if they were visible and whether the eclipse, in which the Earth’s shadow completely blocks out the moon, had lasted for a particularly long time. It started at 1:32 AM (Eastern Time), with the total eclipse beginning at 2:41 AM. I felt envious of anyone who had seen them.
So what does this have to do with SOL? During this month, as many Slicers have already noted, we tend to become more vigilant. We notice more details. We are looking for Slicing ideas. But never did I think to look upward to see the Big Picture in the sky as a source of inspiration!
Two good websites for exploring the skies: