December 21, 2009 - It Must Be Winter

It Must Be Winter The Pleiades are synonymous with winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but their location near the celestial equator makes them easily visible from every spot on Earth except the poles. Understandably, a wealth of mythology surrounding the Pleiades springs from nearly every culture on our planet. They are mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, referred to several times in the Bible, and described by Tennyson as glittering “like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.” Native Americans measured visual acuity by the number of individual stars the viewer could see in the Pleiades, and ancient Greeks saw seven sisters being pursued by Orion the Hunter. In reality, the Pleiades are a cluster of some five hundred very young stars that lie 380 light-years away in the constellation Taurus.

Image credit: Davide De Martin / Skyfactory.org / Digitized Sky Survey / ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator

Weekly Calendar

December 21-27, 2009

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 21

Winter Solstice 12:47 pm
Jupiter and Neptune 4° S of Moon
Ursid meteor shower

1968: Apollo 8 launched
1984: Vega 2 launched
1988: Cosmonauts Titov and Manarov return after spending one year aboard Mir space station

Moon phase Tuesday 22

Ursid meteor shower

1966: Luna 13 launched
1966: First glide test of the HL-10 lifting body

Moon phase Wednesday 23

Uranus 6° south of Moon

1672: Giovanni Cassini discovers Saturn’s moon Rhea

Moon phase Thursday 24

First Quarter Moon 12:36 pm
Pluto in conjunction with Sun

1968: Apollo 8 enters lunar orbit
1978: Venera 11 lands on Venus
1979: European Space Agency launches first Ariane rocket

Moon phase Friday 25

Christmas Day

1642: Isaac Newton born
2003: Mars Express and Beagle 2 arrive at Mars
2004: Huygens probe separates from Cassini spacecraft

Moon phase Saturday 26

Boxing Day (Canada, U.K., Australia)
First Day of Kwanzaa

Mercury appears stationary

Moon phase Sunday 27

1571: Johannes Kepler born
1984: Meteorite ALH 84001 discovered

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.