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“The Lord of the Rings” Saturn Especially Bright

Nan at Night:”The Lord of the Rings” Saturn Especially Bright

-Friday the 21st: In early evening, the Moon shines between Orion (to its lower right) and bright Capella (to upper left). Saturn is the bright point glowing far to the Moon´s lower ft. Procyon meaning “before the dog” within Canis Minor the Little Dog, sparkles to Saturn´s lower right, just a bit dimmer.

-Saturday the 22nd: Look for Saturn below the Moon this evening. Fainter Pollux and Castor, the “twin” stars of Gemini, are to Saturn´s upper left. Procyon is farther to Saturn´s lower right.

-Sunday the 23rd: The Bright “star” shining near the Moon tonight is the planet Saturn. Fainter Pollux and Castor are also in the Moon´s vicinity. The Moon is at apogee, its furthest point away from Earth this cycle.

-Monday the 24th: Saturn shines to the Moon´s upper right this evening. More directly above the Moon are fainter Pollux and Castor. Procyon is farther right of the Moon.

-Tuesday the 25th: Full Moon tonight, known as the Wolf Moon; amid the zero cold and deep snows of midwinter, wolf packs howled hungrily outside Native American villages. This Moon has also been called the Old Moon or the Moon After Yule throughout the ages.

-Wednesday the 26th: After the Moon rises in mid-evening, look to its lower right for Regulus, the brightest star of Leo the Lion. Try to make out the “mane” of the lion in the shape of a backwards question mark. Saturn is the “star” of the show these cold mountain evenings. This extraordinary planet is holding court high above us, keeping us company throughout our long mid-winter nights. The ancients named this planet for Saturn, god of agriculture and time due to its slow, 30-year orbit around the Sun. We might have named it “The Lord of the Rings” in this modern day and age as Saturn is of course most famous for its lovely ring system encircling this gas giant. These rings are made up of billions of particles of rock and ice ranging from microscopic to the size of a house. Currently Saturn is broadly tilted relative to Earth and its rings are very conspicuous and bright. Take out a pair o binoculars or a telescope and spend some time observing this fascinating planet. Once the rings come into view, it will be hard for you to break away from this awesome sight.

Reprinted with permission from the Sierra Mountain Times