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Our Annual Holiday "Sky", in Rhyme

by Geoff Chester, USNO Public Affairs | 23 December 2020

by Geoff Chester, USNO Public Affairs | 23 December 2020

Great Conjunction + 1 day, imaged at the U.S. Naval Observatory, 2020 December 22
with a Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR and USNO's 30.5-cm (12-inch) f/15 Clark/Saegmüller refractor

‘Tis the Night Before Christmas and up in the dome
We eagerly wait for the nightfall to come.
The slit has been opened, the lens cap’s been stowed
The night sky awaits like a wide-open road.

The solstice just passed on the 21st day,
The Sun’s southernmost point on his orbital way.
The year’s longest nights are upon us right now
But they start to get longer when the Yule log’s aglow.

The Moon is now waxing through autumnal stars
Her gibbous begins the week passing by Mars.
Full Moon occurs on the 29th hence,
Then wanes among spring’s stars as the New Year commences.

Jupiter shines in eve twilight’s last glow,
With much fainter Saturn behind him in tow.
The pair were quite close when the solstice occurred,
Old Jove moving eastward will get the last word.

Red Mars dashes quickly through Pisces’ faint lights,
His ruddy glow fading as he recedes in the night.
He’ll be with us well into summer next year,
By August he finally will disappear.

The Great Winter Circle shines high in the night
With bright stars a-twinkling with all of their might.
Their colors add contrast to enhance the dark sky
While far down below they’re a treat for the eye.

Orion is now rising high up in the east,
Shield raised in defiance of Taurus the beast.
The Great Winter Circle surrounds his bold shape, 
While faithful dog Canis leaps up in his wake.

Late night brings Sirius, the Dog Star on high,
By New Year’s he transits as midnight draws nigh.
The brightest of stars warm the long winter’s night,
His colorful cohorts all add to the sight.

Ten of the brightest of stars in the sky, 
Light these long nights of winter as Old Sol plays shy.
With the solstice now past us we’ll all soon be glad,
For the days getting longer than the ones we’ve just had.

The first stars of summer rise just before dawn
With dazzling Venus soon tagging along.
The planet’s bright glimmer shines in the southeast
As brightening twilight snuffs the bright stars to sleep.

So Peace to your families, neighbors, and friends,
We wish you the best that the holiday sends.
The stars mark the comings and goings of time,
So stop to enjoy them, and so ends my rhyme.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the U.S. Naval Observatory!

And my most sincere apologies to Clement Clark Moore.


Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command | 1100 Balch Blvd. | Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529

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