Saturday, January 30, 2016

planets on parade

One of the best things about owning a puppy is getting up at 5:30 in the morning for a bladder break -- both mine and his.

If you fail to see the virtue in that sentence, you probably do not live somewhere with clear skies and unobstructed vistas. I do. Each morning, the crystal spheres put on a private show for me.  And, since 20 January, something very special has been added to the mix.

If you read the other adams family, you know I am working my way through the biographies of each of the American presidents. My current subject is John Quincy Adams.

I always learn something new about each of the men who have worked in the White House. After all, that is the purpose of reading biographies. To learn something new. And useful.

John Quincy Adams is still a young man in my reading. But I was fascinated with the author's revelation that "[m]ore than any other subject, astronomy excited him." In April 1791, he observed a partial eclipse of the sun from Beacon Hill in Boston.

That may help explain my own fascination with astronomy. After all, Adams is my fourth cousin seven times removed (which is about the same distance of my other cousins: Barak Obama and Dick Cheney). There must be something in those genes. Even though I can best be called a hobbyist of hobbies when it comes to such things.

That special show? You may already have heard about it. Since 20 January, it has been possible to see all five planets (six if you count Earth) -- the ones that are visible with the naked eye -- parading across the early morning sky just before sunrise. Like a line of Ziegfeld girls.

Mercury. Venus. Mars. Jupiter. Saturn. All of them in the same elliptical -- just like we learned in grade school science.

Because there is not a lot of light pollution in the early morning sky here in Barra de Navidad, I have been able to see even the dimmest of the five -- Mercury. For those of you who live around more artificial light, you may need binoculars to see the tiniest of the planets.

The show will be around until 20 February. But the best viewing (especially for Mercury) will be during this week.

Do yourself a favor and get up early to see the planets show off. The phenomenon is not that unusual. But it is a reminder that some of the world's greatest art is not located in museums.

You might even get a smile out of old cuz' John Quincy.

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