March 30 – April 12, 2020
Mount Washington — Are you missing the buzz at gatherings in theaters and movie houses? Please find here a schedule of brilliant performances – from early bird to late show – in the open-air planetarium that is the Berkshire sky. Drop in and out at your leisure. To see the most stars, the bright and dimmer ones, allow 10-20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. The brightest celestial objects are visible even before nightfall and in towns where our view of the heavens is dimmed by artificial lights.
While we continue to learn how to dodge threats of the pandemic to our physical health, spring is arriving with opportunities to nurture mind and body in the safety of the outdoors. When I challenge my eyes to find planet Venus high in the west shortly after sunset, it could be that I am giving a boost to my immune system. Besides, it is a delightful pursuit for people of all ages every clear evening. Venus appears high in the west as a point of white light, the Evening Star, in blue sky about half an hour after sunset. Sunset is shortly after 7:15 p.m. this week. The goddess planet increases in brilliance and decreases in altitude as the sky darkens. Venus sets in the west-northwest at about 11:30 p.m.
The early bird show continues to the left of Venus, in the south to southwest, where Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens, appears as the sky darkens. Then, find a lookout to the northeast horizon about 90 minutes after sunset to receive the golden light of the second brightest star in our sky, Arcturus.
Study the constellation chart, above, to identify stars as they emerge and their relationship to the moon. All of the constellations will be visible as darkness falls, about 90 minutes after sunset.
Easiest to recognize are Leo the Lion, Sirius the Dog, the triangular head of Taurus the Bull, and Orion the Hunter. They, and many more, are visible until about midnight.
For a lifetime field guide to the stars through the year, consider purchasing, or making, a star wheel aka planisphere. Find a link to one in “Resources,” below.
A note about artist Naoto Nakagawa’s painting, “Stars of the Forest”: It began as a reflection on “a glorious moment in nature’s drama.” Its beauty, like personal immersion in Earthly nature and stargazing, is especially heartening as we suffer the COVID-19 pandemic. Naoto Nakagawa started the painting a week before 9/11. He states: “At the time, I was unaware that it would be an elegy for that disaster. … after working on it for three months, I came to realize what is was about. The inner light that permeates the entire surface represents the victims of 9/11, expressed as shining stars.” Naoto’s image holds both the tragedy now being experienced around the world and the infinite beauty of nature and the human spirit.
Naoto Nakagawa’s work and reflections http://www.naotonakagawa.com/stars-of-the-forest
More about the painting https://www.911memorial.org/connect/blog/downtown-artist-reflects-painting-changed-911
Star Wheel/Planisphere: lifetime field guide to the stars and constellations through the year https://earthskystore.org/collections/astronomy-tools/products/planisphere-large-plastic