Predawn Planets

This week the sky has been magnificent every morning before dawn! I’ve been walking on my deck and watching the sky from early enough for a deep, dark star-besprent sky until the sun is well up and the day is bright. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter have been putting on a brilliant show, and I’ve been watching to see the exact time they each fade from view as the bright light of the sun spreads across the sky. I’ve written about those times in the notes that follow, but today I did not note the time that Venus faded from view as the sun rose. That’s because Venus was so bright today that she was even visible at 10:00 this morning, with the sun high and bright! I had not realized before that Venus is bright enough to be seen even in strong daylight under the right conditions.

(If you click on the images, you’ll be able to see them large enough to read my notes.)

Moon, Venus, Jupiter sketch


Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter sketch


The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
                                            Psalm 19:1-2

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse September 2015

I turn off all the lights, step outside, and climb up onto the picnic table. Settling myself on the table, I look to the east, to the brilliant “supermoon” that hangs in the sky just above the roof of our house. The moon is “super” because it’s at the closest point of its orbit around the earth, making it appear 14% larger and 33% brighter than an ordinary full moon. But right now I don’t think in terms of percentages and numbers. Rather, I sit in quiet awe, wrapped in the softness of the night, marveling at the brilliant moon above and the striking shadows cast by its light here below.

The eclipse isn’t supposed to start for a while yet, but I want to still my soul and open my senses to the wonder of all that is, before I start recording the progression of the earth’s shadow across the face of the moon. Crickets chirp in the woods on all sides– at least three different species, based on the variety of pitches and patterns. I hear three lonely-sounding katydids, two in the direction of the stream, one off toward the woods on the high side of our yard. Most of their kin has gone the way of all the earth by this late in the season.
In the distance I hear an Eastern Screech Owl call once, then all is quiet, save for the music of crickets and katydids. I watch the moon as it slowly rises higher above the roof, tangling for a time in the branches of an ash tree. A broad, light cloud crosses in front of the moon, causing a reddish, rainbow-like effect to form a wide circle around the moon. A Barred Owl calls and calls again, just as the first hint of the earth’s shadow dips into the perfect circle of the moon. I pick up my pencil…
(Click the image to view it large enough to read. I recorded the progress of the eclipse in pencil, then added watercolor later.)
Supermoon eclipse sketches