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.”
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.
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.
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.