Monday, April 08, 2013

Everything’s Still There

I posted a few days ago (well, last month) in Beautiful Technology, Beautiful Stars about how beautiful Jupiter is in Taurus in the western sky after sundown. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. The second largest planet in the solar system is Saturn and Saturn is visible, too, these days but much later.

I can prove it. Look, here is a picture of Saturn. Saturn is the “star” to the left, above the big trees:

I did almost no cropping or processing to this image. This is pretty close to what the scene looks like visually late at night here south of Chicago looking south-east.

I’ve often posted about how bright the night-time skies are here just south of Chicago, and around all cities, most recently in Thinking About Real And Fake Villains. This certainly is an example. I took this image a couple of minutes after midnight [!] on Sunday night/Monday morning. This is a fifteen-second exposure looking south-southeast. Notice how clearly you can see tree branches and detail in the foreground buildings, just from street lights and window lights. And in the sky only two stars are visible.

City skies at night. Very bright.

Anyway, even in bright city skies at night you can still see some cool stuff and those two stars are a case in point. The star on the right is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo (I posted about Spica in Waking Up (Not) Lost In Space).

The star to the left is the planet Saturn.

Saturn now is visible toward the middle of the night and is nowhere near as bright as Jupiter, but Saturn is still worth taking a look at.

I viewed Saturn Sunday night/Monday morning and even though the sky was so bright, with my four-inch spotting scope at 50x I had a very nice view of Saturn and her rings, with the moon Titan easily visible.

I’m not a big believer in astrology, but for people who are, Saturn is doing interesting stuff now. Saturn is right on the cusp between Virgo and Libra.

Libra is an interesting constellation that I’ve written about before.

Libra And The Alchemical Sky

Libra And The Light Polluted Sky

Technically Saturn is considered to be “in” Libra right now (but for all practical purposes Saturn is really on the cusp between Virgo and Libra) and over the coming months Earth’s motion around the Sun will cause Saturn to appear to move backward, what is called “retrograde” motion, and technically Saturn will move out of Libra and back into Virgo.

If you check out the scene visually and compare it to this photograph, over the coming months Saturn will visually move “slightly to the right” and get a little closer to Spica in Virgo.

As the Earth continues around the Sun, that retrograde motion will stop and Saturn will move back, away from Spica, farther into Libra, although since Libra has no stars that are particularly bright it will be hard to follow that dynamic, of Saturn moving “into” Libra. But it will be possible to pay attention to the distance between Saturn and Spica, and it will be easy to see Saturn first moving closer to Spica and then moving farther away from Spica over the course of spring and summer.

It’s a cool bit of business in the sky to check out. And it’s interesting to just kind of speculate about the astrology aspects, as the second largest planet in the solar system moves between the sign of The Virgin and The Scales. They’re both very ancient star signs, both concerned, of course, with justice, goodness, right and wrong, eternity, and mankind’s role in all those things. And, of course, our own role as individuals in those things.

Saturn is moving around up there, calling our attention to those things.

And Saturn is so bright that even in urban skies we can see it. And, if we choose, we can wonder about it.

I’m not sure what I’m going to be posting about this week. Maybe more about this stuff. It was fun, looking at Saturn through a telescope a few minutes ago, seeing the Rings, seeing Titan.

More and more people live in cities now than ever before in history. That means fewer and fewer people now than ever before in history can see things like Saturn moving between Virgo and Libra.

For many millennia—it’s not often you get to type a phrase like that and really mean it!—but for many millennia the planets moving between the constellations of the zodiac created, at the very least, a kind of convenient framework for humans to think about human activity, and our own activity as individuals within the cosmos.

For many millennia, Saturn moving between Virgo and Libra would have been an interesting conversation-starter among people who talked about things like the stars and philosophy and all that jazz.

Now with city skies being so bright, those conversations never really get started.

But we still have TV. Thank heavens. So to speak.

But of course I’m being snarky. “Snarky” is new, too, and now we have that. Lucky us.


Saturn is still there
for anyone who will look
who knows where to look

and everything else
about the sky is there too
zodiac and all

if someone will look
if anyone wants to look
everything’s still there.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alchemical Suspicions Of Beauty Without Terror

This Bright Old World Of Ours As A Rune

“The Stars From Here: A Puppet Thriller”

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