Wandering Stars

Celestial bodies can be observed to move in a set, shifting pattern. During the summer of 2018, a friend pointed out to me that a particularly bright and warmly colored star was in fact Mars. I marveled at that and mentioned a passing interest I have had in star charts. He told me to get an app, so I didn’t have to fuss with floppy sheets of plastic and the challenge of having a full set of sheets to track the night’s sky year round. I was so excited at the idea that I did it right away.

Since then, my kids would frequently come to ask for my phone so they could use it to identify the planets and constellations above us. I had a lot of fun with it too. As we live a life so disconnected from the natural world and from the seasons, it felt special to be able to put a name to the stars we saw and learn how to spot the planets even without the app. I find it endearing that as I head to work each day it is dark enough to see the stars. I remember my dad pointing out Orion and the Dippers to me (those are Ursa Minor/Major, the little and big bears, for those of you who might like to know) and it felt like a neat, almost secret thing that there were these hidden images in the stars. Even now seeing Orion makes me grin.

Recently Orion has come back into easy view above the Western horizon. It felt odd to have missed it for the last while, I think it tilts out of view from the Southern California area during Fall. Seeing Orion back, got me to spend more time looking at the stars. I noticed a really bright star in the West and was perplexed by what it could be. The star, which suddenly appeared turns out to be none other than Venus. I find it funny that I didn’t guess that it was a planet, after all I have known for years that the Greek word for Planet weans wanderer because over time people observed that some of the stars in the sky shifted erratically. I have made that same observation now with my own eyes.

Picture I took of of Venus and images from Sky Map app, I used to figure out that that star was Venus.

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