Friday, July 13, 2012

Rise early to see the pre-dawn lineup of the Golden Age

Early risers who have a clear view to the east (worth driving a little ways to find one if you do not) can see a spectacular morning array of stars, planets, and constellations right now, and one with great historical significance for the human race.

Above is an image from Sky & Telescope's excellent "Interactive Sky Chart" application (which is free to use once you create a login ID and password), showing the morning sky at 4:30 am, looking to the east, for a viewer at latitude 35 North.

In the image above, one can see that Orion dominates the horizon, with nearby Gemini also above the horizon and waiting for the sun to come up in their vicinity as the earth continues to rotate towards the east (think of the horizon plunging "downwards" in the direction that you are looking as you stare at the image).  

Above Orion is the distinctive "V" shape of Taurus the Bull, with his long horns.  The planets Venus and Jupiter are close to one another and to reddish star Aldebaran and clearly visible in this image.  Just out of view in this image but clearly visible in the predawn sky is the waning crescent moon, which is just above the top of the image and roughly in line with Venus and Jupiter (a bit to the right of them as you look east) and close to the beautiful Pleiades (also out of view on this image above the top edge of the image).

To see a helpful diagram of the waning crescent moon as it becomes thinner and thinner and its "lead" in front of the sun gets shorter and shorter over the next few mornings, see this Sky & Telescope discussion of "This Week's Sky at a Glance" and the first diagram in that article.

What makes the morning lineup so exciting right now is the fact that it is very similar to the morning lineup of stars prior to the sunrise on the important Spring Equinox (March Equinox) back in the Age of Gemini, four "Ages" ago (prior to the Age of Taurus, which was prior to the Age of Aries, which was prior to the current Age of Pisces, which is now almost over as well).

In their seminal 1969 work Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend present a plethora of evidence, primarily from world mythology, that this lost Age of Gemini was recorded in myth as the "Golden Age."  For more discussion of that concept, see this previous post.  

Due to the phenomenon of precession, the entire sky has been "delayed" in the view that it presents on the same day each year (such as on the morning of the March Equinox, or on the morning of July 14, etc).  For more on that concept, you may want to view the recent video entitled "Precession = The Key."

In any event, try to make plans during the next several days to rise before the sun and observe the stunning array of heavenly bodies making up this historic spectacle.