Category Archives: Astronomy

The Night Returns

It’s always a melancholy night when the Christmas lights come down. The tens of thousands of festive lights, marking and celebrating the weeks surrounding the Winter Solstice, driving back the long nights – they’re all gone and the the night returns.

Tonight the moon, a couple of days past full, is helping to keep the darkest of the dark at bay. It’s always a pleasure to see it rising beyond the trees and the lights of Los Angeles.

Up near the zenith, winter’s guardian, bold Orion is bright – but not as bright as normal. (One of these days we need to talk about Betelgeuse. What’s up with that?)

The cycle will go around again. Spring is coming, the days will get long, we’ll roast through the summer, then the days will start to shorten again and next Thanksgiving we’ll decorate and light up the night.

Until then…

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Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Paul

Goodbye 2019

The final sunset of 2019, the final sunset of the decade.

The colors didn’t suck. I wish the same could be said for the year, at least in the global sense.

The moon was up in the upper left, and Venus could clearly be seen peeking in and out of those cotton-candy clouds. Not sure it can be seen in the picture.

Happy New Year to all – let’s hope 2020 is full of lots of love and laughter. And a lot less of the other stuff that made the late 2010’s suck so badly.

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Moon & Venus Conjunction

A couple of gems in our sunset tonight. (tl;dr rant as always – if you missed it tonight, they’ll be there tomorrow night, just a little bit further apart, and Monday night a little further apart…)

I’m glad that this parade of winter storms has paused for an evening to let us see it!

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Solstice 2019

Contrary to what the Evangelicals might want you to believe, the solstice really is “the reason for the season.”

It’s the longest night of the year. Our ancestors, whose most advanced technology was that newfangled “fire,” knew what today was. Their lives depended on it. Millennia of hard-won wisdom had taught them when to plant, when to harvest, when to hunt, when to store, all based on the cycles of the stars and the sun.

Orion’s bright these days (well, except for Betelgeuse, but that’s another story), the days are short, the nights are long, and those who didn’t understand the wheres and whys of it all had to have wondered every year if this year might be the year that the days just kept getting shorter and shorter until they disappeared altogether.

But it wasn’t. From here, over the next weeks and months, the days will get longer and warmer and the world will turn green again.

Either as an offering to the unseen, unknowable gods or as a celebration of having made it to the day alive, celebrations centered around the solstice go back to the dawn of time. Myriad tribes, nations, and religions have all appropriated the occasion time after time for their own celebrations (looking at you, Christianity!), mainly to avoid standing out like a sore thumb and getting killed for their beliefs.

Today it’s all about the commercialism and that portly dude with the white beard and red suit, our own appropriation of the time for our own true religion. Well, that and Hallmark Christmas movies. Which might be the next wave of appropriation.

It’s parties, year-end pressure, the pressure to find the perfect gifts, all topped off with maybe a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

And lights. To fight the darkness, even when we lived in caves, we fought off the darkness with light. If the skies couldn’t provide it, we would make our own and light the path for the warmer days to find their way back to us. That tradition carries back right to the strings of lights covering our yard, house, and bushes. I’m not sure that our prehistoric ancestors would have understood the 20,000 tiny, colored LEDs, but they would have appreciated it.

Tomorrow the day will be a little bit longer.

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The BIG Ornament & The Red Trees

We finish an exhausting week by merging our last two day’s posts’ themes, almost like I had a plan or a clue. (For the record – I did not have a plan or a clue.)

Walking across the parking lot at work tonight I found last night’s BIG ornament rising in the east betwixt the red trees.

There was a nice scattering of high clouds to add some atmosphere to the scene.

It was beautiful.

I enjoyed it.

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That’s A BIG Ornament!

I got home tonight just in time to put the biggest & brightest ornament up at the peak of the garage roof!

It looks gorgeous up there. The best part is that it doesn’t cost a cent to light up like that!

Perfect placement, right there at the peak!

Wait! Wait! It’s floating away!

It got away from me. Too bad, it looked perfect there.

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Ice Rings

I went outside to take out the trash, grateful that it had stopped raining, even though it was cold. (As always, that’s “LA cold,” not “real cold.” In other words, 51°, not 11°!) Once I got out I could see that it wasn’t as dark as I had expected, with some moonlight and the clouds breaking up a bit after a week or so of steady rain.

Between the cold, the moon, and the layers of icy, high level clouds, there was the most amazing colored 360° moonbow surrounding the moon overhead.

The cellphone doesn’t do a spectacular job on this type of photo, mainly because of the extreme contract in brightness and the lack of anything solid to focus on.

But you can get an idea of the moonbow. Not as vivid as a rainbow’s colors, but still quite beautiful!

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