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Poor Will's Almanack: December 8 - 14, 2015

Shooting Star
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
/
Flickr Creative Commons

The sun now reaches slightly more than one degree from its lowest position in the sky. Its declination stays within a degree of solstice until January 8, producing a period of solar stability similar to the one between June 4th and July 8th.

At night, the winter sky is already in place. By midnight, the Pleiades and Taurus are almost directly overhead, Orion fully visible behind them. To the upper left of Orion, come Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and on the night of December 13th and the morning of the 14th, the Geminid meteor shower arrive out of the northern heavens near those Gemini twins. Several days after the Geminids, the Ursid Metors fly out from the Little Dipper, a small constellation just to the east of the North Star. Since the new Sparrow Flocking Moon is dark, it should offer no impediment to your meteor watching.

People once found a higher truth in these early winter showers, the truth of the miraculous, and Jewish festival of lights, and Christian Christmas with its star of wonder dovetail easily with the appearance of December’s meteors. Those traditions follow the shooting starlight with hopeful and celebratory ceremonies which humans often use to face the cold and gloom of the months past solstice.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack, I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of early winter. In the meantime, watch for shooting stars, high truth in the winter sky.

Bill Felker’s Poor Will’s Almanack for 2016 is now available. For a sample of this new annual, and for information on how to order your copies, visit www.poorwillsalmanack.com

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.