The Christmas Star

 
Last night was the “grand conjunction” of planets Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets were just .1 degree apart in the sky just after twilight. This is the closest conjunction of these planets since March 5, 1226. The most significant grand conjunction occurred in 7 B.C., and another in 3 B.C. , thus scientific support for the reference to this as a “Christmas Star.”

As twilight fades, stars of the night sky begin to appear, drawing attention to the magnitude of the brightness of these two planets in conjunction.

A pastor friend of mine offered the following information regarding the connection of this conjunction to Christmas:
“The last time a “grand conjunction” between Jupiter and Saturn occurred was 1226 A.D. Previous to that was 7 B.C., which was followed up by a very similar conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in 3 B.C. Johannes Kepler, a major figure from the scientific revolution which began in the 17th century, the scientist who first correctly explained the motion of the planets, referred to this as a “triple conjunction” because of the alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and the sun. He pointed out that this triple conjunction occurred three separate times in 7 B.C., a view confirmed by modern science. For dedicated, serious ancient stargazers like the Magi, this might have been just enough for them to saddle up their horses – or their camels – and take the long, long ride to Israel to check it out.”

The magnified conjunction, showing Jupiter and its four largest, most visible moons on the left, and Saturn to the right.

Epitaph for Wild

With the coming of the Christmas holiday, and the new year right around the corner, it seems fitting that I share a poem that I wrote 30 years ago about my feelings toward Gaia, or the health of our planet, and where we’re going as caretakers of this marvelous creation. This year of 2020 can either be one of despair, or it can be one of awakening.

I wrote this poem sitting on a rock in the high desert as a clearing storm painted a rainbow across the early morning sky, and the photograph below was taken at that time on a Minolta 35mm camera using Kodak Kodachrome 64 transparency film. The words came flowing out, sitting on that rock, and writing on an old notebook with a stub of a pencil (you do remember pencils and paper, don’t you). It really was a time of reflection, and discovery, and hope:

Epitaph for Wild

There’s a Kingdom where the ravens play with rainbows
And the mountains kiss the sky,
As the dancing crimson sunbeams paint the heavens
Where the Angels learn to fly;
Where the silence of a moonbeam echoes wildly
Through the caverns of my mind
And this cool September morning fills my marrow
With a high desert high.

A siren’s song is taunting from
The pinnacles and valleys of this land;
The desert’s silent melody is calling
Like a lover or a friend,
And yet this fickle lady wipes my footprints
From her shifting, blowing sand
As though I never was…so like
The flicker of a firefly on the wind.

I walk among these canyons where the
Ancient Shaman lived, and loved, and died;
I feel Him walking with me, I see His tears
And hear His mournful cry;
But not a sorrow for Himself,
Nor for a son, or for a daughter’s child…
These tears are shed for Mother Earth,
For Bear, and Hawk, and Wolf, and Father Sky.

The Shaman’s cheeks are pitted, as from poisoned tears,
So like the acid rain
That falls upon the scorched earth where the
Graceful raptor’s shattered bones are lain;
Where once God’s mighty warriors of the mountains roamed,
Long absent from their dens,
As wildness lies bludgeoned unto death…
What a treacherous lot we call men.

Behold, the changing colors in the clouds
Forever heralding the rain,
The lifeblood of the desert, coursing
Wildly through her arteries again;
Life has been renewed and resurrected,
All forgiving of the pain;
It seems to me a promise,
Not a legacy of ages lived in vain.

There’s a Kingdom where the ravens play with rainbows
And the mountains kiss the sky,
And the dancing crimson sunbeams paint the heavens
Where the Angels learn to fly;
Where time and space rejoice in singularity
As once it all began…
And starlight waltzes lightly with my soul,
As God proclaims, “I Am”

©1990 Bob Freeman

This planet has endured and evolved, and will continue to do so in spite of our treatment of her, and will adapt and change and continue to evolve with or without us.
As we move into a new year, with new opportunities for understanding, and new opportunities for change, we must do so, or we will find that we really will have lived in vain. I still choose to see the glass half full.

Gemenids

This year’s Gemenid Meteor Shower did not disappoint. Featuring a projected 103 meteors per hour, there were a few really spectacularly long, bright streaks across the Milky Way. Unfortunately, I was not able to capture those because of timing or camera orientation, but here are a few that did come across my lens on a chilly but clear midnight vigil:

Look carefully to find 6 meteors

As Neil deGrasse Tyson used to say on his nightly PBS show, “Keep looking up.”