Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Take the time to look up

071218-mars-hubble-01.jpgWe're almost at the winter solstice, which is either the shortest day or the longest night of the year, spending on your mood. That might not get a lot of people excited, but one benefit of all that darkness is that you get a chance to check out the night sky without having to get up in the middle of the night.

So if you're out for an evening walk during this holiday season, you might notice that Mars is the brightest star in the sky. Today, it's the closest it will be to the Earth until 2016. This photo was taken by the Hubble telescope recently. Space.com has links to some videos and tips on viewing the red planet. Here's an excerpt from their article.
The red planet is now the brightest "star" in the evening sky, easily visible by mid-evening until dawn. It comes closest to the Earth today at 6:46 p.m. EST, when it will be 54,783,381 miles (88,165,305 kilometers) from us.

Mars looks like an orange star to the naked eye, but it's revealed as a disk with many features in modest telescopes. It will put on a good show all month.
So if your kids or houseguests are getting a little rowdy over the holidays, send them outside to check out the skyscape. There's nothing like a nice walk on a winter evening to unwind those tense holiday-ready muscles. Or, if you're in a horse-drawn carriage, you might feel as Robert Frost did.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)


Sue H said...

Dave, this is my all-time favourite poem! I often think of it while walking through snowy woods with my dog, as I did on Sunday.
BTW, have you changed the way your site accepts comments? I had to log into Google groups to leave one this time. Kind of a pain, but I'm assuming this reduces spam.

Dave said...

Thanks for commenting Sue. I haven't changed the way comments are left, but I noticed in the box that you have several choices for choosing an identity. The first is to sign-in using your Google ID, Open ID, AIM address, etc. You can pick that one and I assume it will figure out who you are. Then there's an option for choosing to have follow-up comments sent to an email address. Then come the other two identity options. The first is to use a Nickname -- so you add a nickname then go ahead and publish. The next option is to click on Anonymous, so no name is required.

Hope that helps...and keep on reading and commenting.