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What's Up...Christmas stars just for us PDF Print E-mail

My intentions this week were to discuss two of the great winter asterism, the Winter Circle, and the Winter Triangle. But, seeing how close Christmas is, I am going to talk about two other celestial objects.

In Psalm 8, David the king writes, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the Moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him.” And again in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Anyone who takes the time to find a good, dark, place from which to observe the night sky will soon realize the grandeur and glory that is there.

If that person were to take a further step and look at the same sky through a pair of binoculars or even a small telescope, the wonder and glory of the sky becomes a little more apparent.

Today I want to look at two of those “glories” that God has placed in His sky for us, his creation, to look at.

We all know Dec. 25, is Christmas Day. And I often repeat the phrase, “The birth of Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”

With that in mind, go outside on Christmas evening, or any evening for the next two weeks, and look west at about 8 p.m. MST. There, just above the northwest horizon will be our old friend, Cygnus, the Swan. Or, as it is often called, the Northern Cross.

Now, about an hour later, at about 9 p.m. MST, go outside again and this time look east for the very dim constellation, Cancer. It has four, very faint, fourth magnitude stars that form a sort of “Y” shape, or it could even be called a “Peace Symbol.”

It is located about 15 degrees above the horizon, or about the width between your pinky and index finger when you spread them out, that would be about 15 degrees when held at arms length.

In the center of the “Y” shape is an open star cluster cataloged in the Messier Catalog of things that are not comets as M44. Binoculars will be a great help in finding it.

The popular name for the cluster is “The Beehive” because when viewed in binoculars it takes on the semblance of a buzzing bunch of bees. Another name for this cluster is “Praecepe,” which in Latin means “manger.”

Now, I have said all of that to say this. In the east, rising on Christmas Day is a symbol of the manger where scripture records the baby Jesus was placed after his birth.

And, as follows, on that same day in the west, or setting, is a celestial symbol of His death showing He had finished the task He was sent into this world to accomplish, His life in exchange for ours, His death in exchange for ours.

Now, my fellow astronomers will, no doubt, say that this particular arrangement of stars is just a coincidence. That in the reality of placement those stars are nowhere near each other and the picture we have derived is only in our imagination because they look like they are close and it is only in our mind that we have put together a picture for the various alignment of the stars.

Also they will say that, in reality, all of the stars we see are moving, they are not in the same place they were 6,000 years ago and will not be in the same place as we see them now in 6,000 more years, and I would say, yes that is true too. But, I would answer, they are where they are now.

We can still look at God’s heavens and be in wonder at what He has put there for us to see now.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

NEXT WEEK: The Winter Triangle and Hexagon and more astronomical blathering.