November 27, 2013, 9:00 PM
Cassiopeia, the queen, shines with vigor, high in the northern sky. She is almost opposite the Big Dipper, a pattern within the Great Bear (Ursa Major) which has retreated toward the Horizon. Some people once said the bear was retreating to her den for the winter, followed by her cub. Others said that she was the nymph Callisto, and the cub was her son, Arctus, fathered by Zeus. Zeus turned them into bears and put them in the sky to protect them from the wrath of his wife Hera.
Tonight the haze obscures Dipper, Bear, and Cub. Even the North Star, which marks the tail tip of the Little Bear is behind the clouds. My neighborhood is dark, with only a few lights from the houses, but the city below is brightly lit. Despite these lights, I faintly see the Pleiades, the seven sisters rising high above Aldebaran, the red star in Taurus the Bull. Orion and his hounds are obscured by haze and city lights. On a clear night, the Great Dog, Canis Major, is clearly visible from here. Its bright star, Sirius, outshines all others, brightest star in the sky. Sirius itself is dimmer than only a few other celestial objects, the sun, the moon, and the planet Venus outshine it, and perhaps a few of the other planets.
A newly sighted comet approaches the sun right now. If it survives to make the outward journey, it will light up our winter skies. Even with the haze, and with the hoped for comet yet to appear, the grandeur of tonight’s sky is well worth braving the 28 degrees registered on my outdoor thermometer.
Ursa Major http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations/Ursa_Major.html
Ursa Minor and the Little Bear http://www.constellationsofwords.com/Constellations/UrsaMinor.html
Pleiades (images) https://www.google.com/search?q=pleiades&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=XayWUovFBtK_kQeJhIC4BQ&sqi=2&ved=0CDsQsAQ&biw=806&bih=468