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By Jupiter!

A blog about the stars, astronomy gifts, and other starry musings by the folks behind Indigo Night.

The Rising Solar System

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Here is a beautiful image, before dawn, of the moonrise with Mercury, Venus, Mars and the Pleiades, the beautiful Taurus open star cluster. Under those dark New Mexico skies.

See the full size image on photographer Elias Jordan’s Flickr photostream The image (on Flickr) has notes identifying the objects. Very cool. Best viewed large.

Moonrise with Venus

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Clear skies this morning. I managed to get out for an early observation of the beautiful moonrise with Venus and Mars. It always surprises me that these objects have enough light to cast a faint shadow in the first light of false dawn.

All three objects are grouped in constellation Aries. Hamel, the alpha star or lucida of the Ram, was clearly visible this morning with Shearatan, above the crescent moon.

This year, the summer, or northern, solstice occurs at 4am, eastern time, this coming Sunday, June 21, when the sun reaches its northernmost extreme.

Solstice from the Latin Sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). The arc of a great celestial pendulum pauses for the briefest moment (at 23.44° north, the ‘Tropic of Cancer’) and then begins its slow journey south. Longest day for sunlight, about 15 hours at my locations, about 38° north. 19 June

Morning Star With Crescent Moon

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Check the weather. If you have clear skies tomorrow morning I suggest you get up in the waning darkness before dawn and find a clear view of the east horizon. A slender crescent moon will stand low with radiant Venus, the beautiful ‘Morning Star,’ and Mars. All will be grouped amid the faint stars of Aries.

The crescent moon, rising with slow majesty in the fading twilight, framed against a horizon that offers us human scale by way of contrast – for me it’s the treeline along Foster’s Branch Creek (mostly Poplar) and Mr Norford’s pastures with that long, long winding fence along the road I walk – offers a deep and abiding affirmation. This is a good way to start a day. 18 June


by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

I think of possible names for our F9 on my morning walks. This is a little harder to do in June since the sun rises so early now, and I don’t see the morning stars unless I get out at before dawn. Like 4 am. Of course, the boat has to be named after a constellation or star. A 31 foot trimaran, well along in its ridiculously lengthy reconstruction, she has a shape that suggests the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, with its long, full main hull – the body of the swan – and its outstretched wings, or amas.


In full flight down the majestic Stream of Heaven – the Milky Way – the stars of Cygnus form a large cross, easily visible even against that enveloping brightness. The long arm of the cross is formed by the bright alpha star Deneb, at the tail, and fainter Albireo, at the head. The gentle arc of the inner wingspan, most easily seen in naked-eye observation, is made up of fainter Gienah, Sadr, and the delta star, at magnitude 2.84

Cygnus is also known as the ‘Northern Cross,’ because of it’s obvious cross shape.

Before the modern system of 88 constellations was adapted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, there were a number of variations on way the night sky was charted, among them a ‘Christianized’ system, in the mid 1600s, that named this pattern in the sky Saint Helena’s Cross. Saint Helena, according to tradition, found the one true cross on which Jesus had died… it having been lost for some 300 years. And there is also the fact that Cygnus appears upright in the night sky, like the Christian cross, or crucifix, around the time of Christmas. A divine sign in some belief systems.

Cygnus, detail of ceiling fresco Cosmography of the Sala del Mappamondo, Villa Farnee

Deneb is also one of the three shining stellar corners, with Vega and Altair, of the beautiful ‘Summer Triangle,’ one of the easiest asterisms to identify, bright at the zenith on summer nights in the northern latitudes.

The sky tonight. Saturn lights low in the west at nightfall amid the stars of the Lion, constellation Leo. Regulus, heart of the Lion, shows close, toward the horizon. Leo sets around midnight while Scorpius, the dominant constellation of summer, also shows low, a bit south of east, now rising. Brilliant Jupiter rises after midnight in faint Capricornus. A last quarter moon rises in Pisces well after midnight, followed mid-morning, 3ish, with the beautiful conjunction of Venus and Mars, now in Aries. Mercury is just visible, near the horizon, in deep morning twilight, in Taurus. 15 June

TWAN The World At Night

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

2009 has been designated at the International Year of Astronomy. Good news for the night sky! I’ve recently found TWAN – The World At Night. This is a remarkable body of work by a small group of exceptional photographers doing landscape astrophotography as part of the larger Year of Astronomy effort.

(Landscape astrophotography shows the night sky in relation to a horizon, as opposed to astrophotography or deep sky astrophotography that isolates an object within the frame with no reference to the horizon.)

These photographers are kindred spirits. Their work is the real world/actual imaging of what we (at Indigo Night) do as illustration. Where the Indigo Night night sky prints re-create a view of the night sky as it appeared on a given date at a given place, the TWAN photographers are out there, on site, living it and doing it in real time. Their work is majestic. Epic. Beyond words. I am humbled. And the motivation behind the TWAN effort is so beautiful – to show that we are really all one people, together under this vast canopy of night. Quoting from TWAN:

Wars are fought over boundaries that have been created in the name of politics, religion, race or beliefs. But the view from space reveals the true nature of our cosmic home – a border-less planet divided only into land and sea. While few will experience that view first-hand, the same is also true in reverse; the night sky above us – a view that is accessible to everyone on the planet – also has no visible borders. This common view is a bridge that connects us, creating understanding and friendship. When borders vanish, political and cultural differences become irrelevant. The beauty of brilliant Venus might be seen in Texas just hours after it is seen by sky gazers in Tehran. The famous stars of the Big Dipper might be viewed over the Vatican while Buddhists in China share the same celestial view over their temples. The magnificent Milky Way might be viewed over the Grand Canyon while people in Nepal are awed by the same celestial view over the Himalaya. We all live under the same eternally peaceful sky. And the Earth we inhabit under it belongs to us all.

Spend some time here. Get ready to get lost. TWAN

Here’s an image from the TWAN gallery with thanks to photographer Wally Pacholka.

bq Devil’s Tower with Milky Way. – W Pacholka / Crook County, Wyoming

See more of W Pacholka’s images here

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Just Because

The night sky print which arrives for no particular reason, other than to celebrate the gift of love that is your beloved, is cherished like no other.


Each of us has a story that begins in a single moment. Poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Tennyson, from Moore to Jung, share a common fascination with the night sky at the moment of birth, and the idea that the moon and stars stand in timeless, silent witness to this moment.

Wedding Anniversaries

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the night you met, the moment of your first kiss, or your wedding night, is an exceptional anniversary gift. Appropriate for any year, especially so for the 1st anniversary, the year of the ‘paper’ gift.

New Baby

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the child’s first starry night, with your words – funny, wise, sweet, hopeful, perhaps a favorite quote from a story or song – makes a beautiful keepsake.

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