WHAT'S UP: Early-morning sky is the best

Oct 25, 2012


First, it does not take a determined effort to see the stars, constellations and planets of the dawn sky now because the sun does not rise until after 8 a.m.

We experience the latest sunrises of the year for the next couple of weeks, even later then during the winter because, until Nov. 4, our clocks continue to tick-tock in daylight saving time. When we adjust our clocks back an hour that first Sunday of November, 8 a.m. becomes 7 a.m. and our mornings will be lighter than they are now. Lighter earlier, and colder, so it will take more determination to enjoy the morning sky later in the year.

Second, the stars and constellations visible in the early-morning sky now are the ones we will see in the evenings during the cold, dark dead of winter. These winter constellations are among the brightest and most conspicuous in the northern-hemisphere sky.

Dominated by Orion the Hunter with his hunting dog Canis Major and their prey, Taurus the Bull, the winter constellations ride in the sky like no others.

These constellations are visible now, before sunrise, comfortably above the southern horizon. To see them in the winter, you will have to stand in the cold in the middle of the night.

And third, presently the early-morning sky is graced by Venus, shining brilliantly in the east. Venus easily outshines every other star in the sky, including the brightest of all stars: Sirius. Sirius marks the nose of Canis Major, who runs in the southeast after his master Orion.

The fine summer skies of West Michigan are giving way to the cold and clouds of winter. Make time, take a detour in your daily routine, and have a look at the next clear morning sky. You will be glad you did.

Doug Furton is a Grand Haven resident and a member of the physics faculty at GVSU. Contact him online at http://grand-sky.net/glimpses/.



Nice to have you back, Dr. Furton.


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