February 28, 2023

Dark Sky Magic and the Planetary Dance

Birth of Venus, Botticelli
Birth of Venus, Botticelli

In late February, my son David who lives in North Carolina sent a text to his brother and me.  “Did you see the sky?” he asked, including a cell phone photo of the evening sky taken in his yard.

“I looked an hour ago,” I answered, “but the planets were hidden behind thick clouds.”

“Look again,” my other son Anthony wrote. He lives three miles from me on his own dark sky land. “The sky cleared and the planets are wild.”

Jupiter, Venus, and the New Moon

I stood outside on the back porch and looked at the sliver of a crescent New Moon near the western horizon with bright Venus above it and Jupiter above that. For a month, I’ve watched Jupiter inch closer to Venus in the night sky. Their sky dance fills me with awe, plus my sons are watching, too.

These nights remind me why I live in the country next to the National Forest, far from the conveniences of town. Without neighbor’s bright outdoor lights or city street lights, I see the night sky. When the sky is clear, it’s decorated with bright planets and constellations gliding from east to west.

On March 1, Venus and Jupiter will be conjunct, two bright planetary lights only a moon’s width apart (from our visual perspective) in the western sky. They’re actually many millions of miles apart.

Jupiter (cameo), Lourve, 1820 (wikipedia)

Picture Venus the Roman Goddess of love, beauty, and pleasure with a chariot pulled by doves. She’s a “virgin” goddess, meaning she is unmarried and not attached to one god, although in some stories, she’s in love with Adonis. She has a son named Cupid or Eros, so her virginity refers to being independent and one-in-herself, not her body.

Jupiter is by far the largest planet even though it looks smaller than Venus because of it’s farther from the earth. In Roman mythology, Jupiter is married to Juno, has six children and, as a Sky God, rules lightning and thunder. He’s King of the Gods and his chariot is pulled by eagles.

As I watch Jupiter in the southwest growing closer and closer to Venus, these lights feel like companions on clear nights. Sometimes they play hide and seek with the clouds and sometimes they’re completely shrouded or on the other side of the earth out of my sight. On February 28, they were veiled by clouds in western NY, but David sent a photo of his clear North Carolina sky.

On cloudless winter nights, I also see the constellations, including Orion with three distinctive stars lined up across the middle like a sash. As I watch, I remember Vic’s enthusiasm for astronomy (he taught astrophysics) and astrology.

Venus-Jupiter conjunction, 2/28/23
(photo by David Mansfield from his NC porch)

On winter nights as I warmed myself near the wood stove, Vic handed me my winter coat and pointed out the window toward Orion. I knew what he was after and knew it would be good. He grabbed my hand and led me to the back porch.

“Come on,” he’d say with a grin. “The sky is beautiful. Let’s admire Orion’s belt.”


Do you live in a place where you can see the night sky or have you traveled to the desert for a look? Have you been watching Jupiter and Venus in the February sky? What else brings you a sense of awe? For another post about nature and the dark times, see Wecoming the Dark Time. For an article Vic wrote about astonomy and astrology see An Astrophysicist’s Sympathetic and Critical View of Astrology.


  1. March 3, 2023 at 11:28 am

    Lin Gregory


    Thank you for this Elaine, I really enjoy your observations on nature and the universe as well as the wonderful memories you have with Vic! I can remember being fascinated by the stars since I was a child and my father would point out Orion’s Belt and the Plough to me at night. In my 30’s I read about the Pleiades aka the Seven Sisters and would often go into the garden on clear nights to spot them by drawing a line from the three stars in Orions Belt…something I still do now.
    These crisp clear nights we’ve been having has made seeing Jupiter and Venus moving together from here much easier and now they have swapped place. There’s also been sightings of the Northern Lights from much further south in the UK than usual but sadly not here. Our universe is a beautiful and amazing place isn’t it.

    1. March 3, 2023 at 6:10 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Although we lived in a small midwestern town and my grandparents lived in the dark sky country with no ambient light, I don’t remember anyone pointing out stars or a sunset. The focus was on my grandpa’s sheep and grandma’s garden and piano. My first sky memory was the sky turning decidedly green and my grandpa saying a tornado was nearby. I must have been 4 years old and it scared me. My second memory of the sky was a year or two later when we spent a winter in Arizona for my father’s fragile health. I saw a sunset over the Painted Desert and it made a lasting impression. Vic took me for a barefoot walk in a creek the first spring I knew him. I was smitten with the walk and with him. I love imagining you with your father looking at the Pleides and Orion. What a gift!

      I’m glad you had clear views of Jupiter and Venus and I did, too. Mine were before the conjunction and for a few hours when they were kissing. I never forget the beauty of the earth, but it’s snowing and windy here this evening. I’m adjusting to a cold spring after a warm winter. So this is global warming…and it’s still beautiful and full of secret surprises. Sending love and gratitude for you and your gorgeous photos.

  2. March 3, 2023 at 9:20 am

    Aladin Fazel


    So enviable! You are living in the right place to watch the fascination above us, dear Elaine. Of course, I do not live in a big city; however, I can even count the stars (in the case of a cloudless night) when I want to enjoy this precious sky. Thank you for sharing your excellent knowledge.

    1. March 3, 2023 at 10:34 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Aladin, I’m glad you can count the stars on cloudless nights. Venus and Jupiter should be visible for another week or more if I get a clear sky, but soon Jupiter will sink below the horizon. And then something new will reveal itself in the heavens. Thanks for the work you do. I’m still not notified of your new posts, so maybe I need to sign up again. Computers make me a little crazy.

  3. March 1, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    Deborah Gregory


    Dear Elaine, I love that you and your sons have been watching the night skies together! Yes, on clear nights, me and Lin have been watching this conjunction too. Although we don’t live in what is deemed as a ‘dark sky’ area, we do live on the coast and by foot we can reach the beach in ten to fifteen minutes, where the night skies over the sea are magnificent. Aww, companion lights, what a dreamy, romantic way of looking at these two giant planets.

    I just read Vic’s paper and was greatly impressed throughout with his wish to integrate his ‘hard hat’ and ‘hippie’ selves. His incredible dream with its devastatingly accurate synchronicity, was amazing to explore. What an extraordinary mind and heart Vic had! And in your other beautiful post, you’ve encouraged me to get one of those night sky app on my mobile, as it’s time for me to find those jewels in the Dark too. Love and light, Deborah.

    1. March 1, 2023 at 12:09 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      I’m falling in love with a few apps, but SkyGuide is wonderful for identifying stars, planets, and constellations. Vic had to integrate his inner scientist with the mystic. It was a lifetime job.

      1. March 1, 2023 at 12:16 pm

        Deborah Gregory


        Wow, what a wonderful photo shared by David! Ah, I see you’ve posted my comment from yesterday here, great! Apologies for posting it on the wrong place yesterday. Hmm, eyes are for seeing and my glasses do need a clean. It’s always good to talk though whether we’re talking about dark skies, stars, baseball caps, wedding dresses or presentations, each is beautiful alignment and story in itself! Love and light, Deborah.

    2. March 3, 2023 at 8:28 am

      Lori McCray


      hard hat and hippie. Love that. Love to you, and thanks so much for this, Elaine! xoxo

      1. March 3, 2023 at 10:30 am

        Elaine Mansfield


        That was my guy. Trying to figure out how to be a hippie philosopher and a professor at the same time. By the end of his life, he’d balanced the two. He would have LOVED the Jupiter Venus conjunction in the sky.

  4. March 1, 2023 at 10:08 am

    Deborah Gregory


    Thank you dear Elaine for replying to my first comment on the other thread, I’ve only just realised that I replied there yesterday instead of here! No matter, it’s wonderful to think of Vic’s Piscean baseball cap and your wedding dress (the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine) now sleeping and dreaming together.

    What an amazing presentation that must’ve been, I love his desire to integrate both ‘hats’ so to speak. I think I’ve been trying to do something similar for years, with me being a poet and a psychotherapist, only I didn’t know until yesterday.

    I’ll definitely look into “SkyGuide” and those astrological “Sabian symbols” in a while. Fingers crossed for clear skies here tonight and across the oceans between us, Deborah.

    1. March 1, 2023 at 11:32 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Maybe you need props, Deborah. Vic did and I had fun helping him create them. I didn’t see the presentation which was in California, but it was well received with lots of laughter mixed with Jung and science. There are various Sabian symbol books–a symbol for each of the 360 degrees in the horoscope. Our teacher Anthony Damiani used an early one called ‘The Sabian Symbols in Astrology’ by Marc Edmund Jones. It was published in 1972 and this set of symbols still feel right to me. I didn’t have clear skies last night, but David sent a beautiful photo of the conjunction from his back porch. It’s now part of the blog with his Buddha statue watching over it.

  5. March 1, 2023 at 7:39 am

    susan scott


    I watch the night sky too. If I wake in the early hours I always step out onto my bedroom balcony and look. It’s nice to see where the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt, the Milky Way has glided to (your word!). We have electricity blackouts here in SA so when it’s totally dark outside at night the stars are even brighter. And yes, I’ve been watching Jupiter and Venus. I even managed to capture a good photo on my cell phone!

    I’m planning a road trip to Johannesburg fairly soon and will overnight in the Karoo. This place is so special … wide open skies, the brightest of stars. I can only be in awe. I once saw a shooting star there when I was thinking of my father. Thanks Elaine. Lovely post.

    1. March 1, 2023 at 9:14 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Susan, you’ve shared a few gorgeous photos from your balcony looking across the water–and now I understand the positive side of those blackouts in South Africa. My son sent a terrific photo of the conjunction from North Carolina (about 600 miles south of me with warmer temperatures and fewer clouds), so I will download his and share it. He already gave me permission. I remember the Karoo has been a focus of your photos from the past–elephants, giraffes, and other animals we only see in zoos. It must be wonderful to see them in their natural habitat. What a lovely story about seeing a shooting star while thinking of your father. Thank you and have a lovely trip.

  6. February 28, 2023 at 11:04 pm



    Hi Elaine,
    Thanks so much for this! I live in town with lights and all, and haven’t had a chance to view these splendors. Now I know to look for them, and if the clouds prevail, at least I have your photos. Not the same, of course.
    Meanwhile, the Greeks had different names for the same gods that the Romans later adopted – Aphrodite and Zeus. Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, the Roman Vulcan. But, she had affairs with many others including Ares, who is Mars in the Roman tradition. However, that’s one verson of the myths but there are several other variations.
    For some reason, it is fascinating and overwhelming to follow these gods and goddesses – likewise, the planets. But, contemplating the planets is much more uplifting, no?
    Love, Myra

    1. March 1, 2023 at 9:00 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Myra, I’m afraid it will be cloudy again tonight, but you’ll see them another time if you look in the western sky. They’re bright right now, especially Venus. As you probably assume, I know the Greek names and usually use them, but didn’t have space in a blog to get into the side stories. I wanted to focus on the sky and I liked being able to open with Botticelli’s painting of The Birth of Venus. (I laugh at the mythological complications and my attempts to keep it simple.) Aphrodite got around and so did Zeus. The planets are simpler since they don’t depend on human mythological and cultural differences. I just look up at the sky with awe. I hope you see the planets this week and feel the magic.

  7. February 28, 2023 at 10:28 pm

    Monica Sword


    Although I live in one of the most populated counties in Florida on the west central coast, I’ve been able to watch the conjunction happening night after night. They are so bright! Brighter than the metropolis in which I live, gratefully. Thank you for explaining some of the mystery, Elaine.

    1. March 1, 2023 at 8:50 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I wonder if you live near St. Petersburg. Having access to western skies, sunsets, and planetary conjunctions over the ocean must be an inspiration. I’m glad the planets are bright where you live, but they’re no match for the thick clouds here. I’ll hope for a glimpse tonight. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. February 28, 2023 at 10:08 pm

    Marian Beaman


    The trio of you—Mother and sons–can commune as you gaze at the night sky together though geographically far apart. I like that you view the planets and constellations as “decorations” in the night sky, a sky obscured from my view by city lights and streetlights. I must confess that I’m a bit envious.

    As a child, I remember my Aunt Ruthie pointing out Orion to me, the hunter with three bright stars for a belt, and you have the memory of Vic ushering you outside to lift your eyes to the night sky. Thanks for the reminder that he taught astrophysics, your husband both lover and a professor of “sky magic,” a perfect title.

    1. March 1, 2023 at 8:27 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Marian, the heavens give me a sense of the celestial–our natural Sistine Chapel ceiling. I didn’t see the conjunction last night and it will be cloudy again tonight so if I’m lucky, I’ll get a glimpse. Meanwhile, my son David sent the most beautiful photo of Jupiter-Saturn from his back porch in North Carolina. Wow! I may need to edit my blog to include his photo. I love your stories of wonderful Aunt Ruthie. What a positive influence she had on your life. The “dig the belt” phrase came from a hippie guy who pointed out Orion to Vic on a beach in Mexico just about the time I met Vic. I didn’t know him well enough to go on the Mexico trip, but I heard about sitting on the beach and “digging the belt” amd Vic had fun with that phrase.

      Vic was an unlikely mix of scientist, mystic, and philosopher. He always had a streak of his Catholic youth, too. Speaking of husbands, I have your book about marriage and look forward to reading it. Vic and I were each other’s editors and I know your husband is more than that in this book. I’m in the middle of a butterfly book, but your book awaits me. I hope you see the stars tonight–or have Cliff draw them for you.

    2. March 3, 2023 at 8:26 am



      Marian, that’s exactly what I wanted to say (am glad you had an Aunt Ruthie). So beautiful.

      1. March 3, 2023 at 10:28 am

        Elaine Mansfield


        Marian tells great Aunt Ruthie stories and I learn about the Mennonite life from Marian’s posts. Marian just published her second book.

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