SOL: The Big Picture Is In the Night Sky!

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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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Two good websites for exploring the skies:

http://www.Beckstromobservatory.com/whats-up-in-tonights-sky-2/
http://www.space.com

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21 thoughts on “SOL: The Big Picture Is In the Night Sky!”

  1. Thank you for sharing your view of Orion with us. I live in northwestern Connecticut, so I don’t have as much light pollution and Orion is often hovering above our garage, greeting me at the end of a long day.

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  2. I’m so glad your irritating errand turned into a great experience. I know Orion only by his trusty belt — how lucky you were to see him in his “full glory.” Thanks for teaching me a bit more about our constellations. Your slice is a great reminder to look in new directions for slice inspiration!

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  3. A constellation was hovering
    almost directly above me,
    stories spinning in space.
    My eyes drew lines, leaping
    from one star to the next,
    inventing stories of the stars,
    so that even when I closed my eyes to sleep,
    I found my sleep stories wandering,
    exploring the unknown of worlds
    yet discovered.

    -Kevin, lifting a line from your post to weave a story as comment.

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    1. I love, love, love your poem! I will be sharing it at the poetry workshop I’ll be doing in a few weeks as an example of how poetry can be embedded in any subject we are learning about. Not to mention it’s so beautifully constructed and well written. Thank you for your inspiration!

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  4. Orion is my favorite constellation in the night sky. He is always easy to find from where I live. But don’t you think it would be so much easier to find more constellations if they had those nice little lines drawn between their stars to show their shape like they do on the internet? : )

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    1. Maybe…but where’s the fun in that? I felt so proud of myself that I was able to discern the stars and make the connections on my own with a little help from the internet charts that showed me where to look!

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  5. You drew me in with your slice. I wanted to know what you discovered. I think this is exactly what slicing is about. Noticing and writing about our moments and how they affected us. I always learn so much from reading other slices.

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    1. Me, too! It’s amazing isn’t it how many directions our minds can go and if we pay attention, we have a slice! I agree that the richness of this month of insight and writing is so rewarding.

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  6. I marvel how people can figure out what they are looking at in the night sky. That is not a talent I possess. I just look up and enjoy the view, even though I have no idea of what is up there. You are a life-long learner and inquirer! What a view you had!

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  7. I’ll bet I could help you learn how to do it. It’s like anything else…it takes practice and time. You must be patient and really, really look closely. Just like we tell our students when we want them to learn something new and challenging!

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    1. The sky was so clear it immediately caught my attention. I was lucky to step out the door just at the right time. I looked again tonight…but it’s too cloudy. I could barely see Orion’s Belt.

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  8. I love how you wrote about the detail of the night! Beautiful! I also love how you pulled inspiration from something that we see all the time and take for granted! Perfection!

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  9. Barbara, I am glad that you caught this beautiful site on Long Island and wrote about it. I agree that being vigilant as writers and observers is part of the discovering wonder.

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    1. Wonder is everywhere if we take the time to let it reveal itself to us. That is why I get so upset about parents being plugged into their screens while they are with their children. They are not introducing their kids to the many wonders available to them everywhere.

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  10. Observe. Write. Repeat.

    Love it, Barbara.

    I remember seeing an old iPad commercial in which someone simply pointed their iPad at the night sky and an app told them all about the stars in view, but your way sounds more fun.

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    1. There is definitely such an app. I came across it while searching constellations. But I think there’s so much more to be said for unraveling the mystery yourself and feeling so excited when you do figure it out. Love hearing from you.

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