The sky is falling, steadily. Total snowfall since the first of January is 33.6 inches; which means we are already ahead of the annual average of 24.7 inches, according to the numbers compiled by the National Weather Service station in Edgartown.
Last year, 2013, the total snowfall was 36 inches.
Late Wednesday night the planet Mars and the gibbous moon appear together as a close pair. The two rise in the southeast a few hours after sunset. This is an easy opportunity to see Mars. Use the moon as your guide.
The planet has brightened considerably in the last year and is two months away from opposition. There is no mistaking its reddish sapphire color when compared to the brilliant white moon.
A third bright celestial object resides nearby amid the field of faint stars. It is the bright blueish-white star Spica, the principal star in Virgo.
Tonight it may be possible to see the thin crescent moon appear near the distant planet Mercury. The two are close to the horizon right after sunset.
The moon is only one day past the New Moon phase and so it resides very close to the horizon after sunset. If you are standing on the beach at Menemsha and looking west you’ll see the moon amid the glow of twilight for a short time before it sets.
Mercury is that faint looking “star” to the south, or left of the moon.
A brilliant fireball meteor, as bright as the moon, shot across the sky early Sunday evening. It was seen as far north as Maine and a far south as the New Jersey. David Stanwood, who lives off Lambert’s Cove Road, in West Tisbury, saw it from the backyard of his house.
“At first I thought it was the lights of a jet nosing into the sound, then realized it was at least two large brilliant white fragments of a meteor streaking to the North,” Mr. Stanwood said. He said he watched it for about two seconds.
Winter arrives tomorrow at 11 minutes after noon. Daylight is at a premium now. This weekend and the days ahead are the shortest of the year. But the shortest day is really more a concept than a reality. Our position on the Earth, our latitude and the atmosphere on the horizon all play a part. Daylight is nine hours and five minutes, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
As we look ahead sunrises begin occuring later in the morning, thus adding to the amount of daylight. Sunrise tomorrow is at 7:05 a.m. By January 10 the sunrise will occur at 7:07 a.m.
We’ve watched Venus hover over the treeline in Tisbury for weeks. This is a planet everyone can find, as long as you have a clear view of the western sky. Early in the evening Venus looks like an airplane coming in to land at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
Venus hugs close to the western sky and sets about an hour after sunset, so viewing is limited.
There is a slight possibility Vineyarders can see a partial eclipse of the sun on Sunday morning at sunrise. Anything less than a clear sky will be a spoiler, though. Sunrise is at 6:15 a.m., take note the clocks turn back that morning.
A solar eclipse is a rare event. For those in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and in parts of West Africa they’ll see the eclipse in full. It will be short and spectacular.
But on the Vineyard, we get the tail end of the show. The rising sun will look like someone took a big bite out of it.
Late tonight there is a pairing up of the gibbous moon and Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. The two will rise in the east together before 11 p.m. The two are in the zodiacal constellation Gemini.
By midnight, Jupiter and the moon will be high in the east. By dawn tomorrow morning, they will be high in the west.
Tomorrow night offers another view, however the moon is slowly moving east and the two will be farther apart. On Sunday night, the moon is in the last quarter phase and not far from the red planet Mars.