Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Venus and Mercury in the morning sky

I'm watching my brother's dog while he and his family are at the shore. She's a Toy Cockapoo, a Cocker Spaniel / Toy Poodle hybrid about the size of a small teddy bear and with enough energy to practically leap onto my shoulders with a running start.

Watching her means walking her, and dogwalks are something I haven't done since Haley died.

I walk her at night before we go to bed, about seven times around the house. She sleeps with me - we sleep back to back - but don't tell my brother, because they want her to sleep in her crate. At 5:30 she's ready for another walk, so I am finding myself thrust back into the magical landscape of the pre-dawn hours.

This morning the sky was turquoise, just the damndest color I've seen in a while. We stepped out and I was greeted by the arc-light brightness of Venus hanging over my neighbor's house. Some dim memory told me Mercury should be nearby, but I couldn't see it. Not that I had much time to look.

I consulted my August issue of Sky & Telescope and it says that Venus and Mercury should be very close right now in the morning sky - something like two degrees, which means reeeal close. Mercury is a fast mover - hence the name and the association between Mecury the planet and the Greek deity Mercury, though whether the deity took his characteristics from a namesake planet or the planet was named for a swift-footed Messenger of the Gods, I don't know, and you'd probably have to consult with some prehistoric proto-Greeks to find out for sure - so it won't be hanging about in a convenient location for long.

But it will be around for a little while, long enough that there will be a spectacular Venus-Moon-Saturn-Mercury lineup on the morning of Tuesday, August 22nd. Set your alarms now!

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