Weather Watch: Our Ever-Changing Night Sky

Weather Watch

Our celestial bodies in the heavens above have produced wonder and amazement since the very first humans inhabited the earth. So much has been learned about our sky, earth and the relation of our planets rotation in our very small solar system and galaxy known as the Milky Way.

Of course, our galaxy could be known by another title if anyone else might be out there. What is impossible to imagine though is the amount of what we don’t know about our universe. That said, sometimes it’s just fun enough to wonder and watch what happens above us.

Constellations are formed of bright stars that appear close to each other. The shapes depend on your point of view. Many societies saw patterns among the stars with Gods or Goddesses or stories from their culture, most from ancient Greece.

Instead of saying the constellations rise, we should say the earth rotates so we can see different constellations. As the earth continues to rotate the constellations appear to move across the sky. If you were to measure how much the sky has shifted from one day to the next, you would realize that it shifts about one degree a day. This makes sense since there are 365 days in a year and 360 degrees in a circle.

Every year–like the seconds of a clock–our skies live a life of change. But as we know, it’s the earth that moves, not the sky. However, the wonders of the night sky move me!

Several nights a week I like to spend time in my hot tub. It’s a wonderful way for me to relax, reflect, think and wonder. I do it year round. What I’ve come to learn is that the constellations are much harder to see on a summer night than they are on a winter night.

This is because the heat of a summer night keeps pollutants like smog, haze and even light trapped in the sky. Winter nights–while very cold at times–usually offer such a crystal clear view that you can even see the stars twinkle. I can see many more winter constellations than I can summer ones.

My favorite constellation is the grouping of stars called “Orion the Hunter”. It’s the most obvious and largest in the night sky to my eye anyway. Orion’s belt is so easy to find with its brilliant nebula right below the belt and his bow or shield pointing upward.

Now through the years as I’ve grown older, the cold of winter seems to get harsher and harsher. Plus, with my job as a meteorologist, winter weather puts the added stress on me to make sure I can get to work through any snow or ice. It also means days away from my home and family at times. I’ve become a summer person! Actually, fall is my favorite season.

Now that I’ve set the stage, when I see Orion rising in the eastern sky in November, I feel a bit of dread knowing winter is here. Of course some winters can be worse than others; like this year!

In January the cluster of stars is right above me. By March the hunter starts to fade into the western horizon and by April what’s left to see is usually obscured by the wonderful sight of a neighbors oak tree blossoming with beautiful green leaves.