Monday, February 20, 2012

The belt of Orion's belt

Lately, I've been walking Popcorn at night often. And in what is a reminder that winter is winding down, Orion is directly overhead in the night sky.

I can only pick out a few constellations, and Orion is one of them. And it's one that easily defines the seasons. Back in October, Popcorn was whining in the middle of the night, so I took her out, and there it was: Orion, making an early appearance over the Wasatch mountains in the eastern sky. As the days and weeks passed, Orion appeared in the east earlier and earlier, to the point now that it's visible over the mountains (and now, farther west) as soon as night falls. Now in mid-February, at about 10 p.m. when I walk the dog, it's even shading to the west and is slipping from being directly overhead.

In about a month, I bet we won't see Orion at all. The constellation will fade to the west, first getting lost in the sunset, then disappearing behind the mountains as Earth continues its orbit around the Sun. Orion will be gone, then I'll be looking for Scorpius, which is as unique a summer constellation in the Northern Hemisphere as Orion is a winter constellation. To quote Leonard Nimoy on the monorail episode of "The Simpsons": "The cosmic ballet goes on."

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