Episode #12-48 "The Surest Sign of Winter"
FIVE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
DEAN: And I'm Dean Regas. In case you haven't noticed, winter is coming. Now for people like me who live at northerly latitudes the temperature change itself is notice enough that winter is on its way
JAMES: But for people who live in southerly latitudes like me in Florida, the temperature change is not noticeable enough to mark winter's arrival. Indeed, winter in southerly latitudes demands a cosmic notification.
DEAN: And you've got one, which is visible all over the northern hemisphere at this time of year. Indeed, go outside any clear night in early December at 8 p.m. and you'll notice the surest sign of winter no matter what the temperature, from Minneapolis to Miami.
JAMES: OK, we're facing east any night this week at 8 p.m. where just above the horizon you will see three evenly spaced stars in a row flanked by four brighter stars and these mark respectively the belt, shoulders and knees of Orion the hunter. And for the rest of your life, whenever you see Orion just above the horizon at 8 p.m. you'll know that the official beginning of winter, the winter solstice, is only three short weeks away.
DEAN: It just doesn't feel right to a Midwesterner to see Orion rising while it is still warm out. And there are other things astronomical that just don't feel right to a lot of people. One of these is how the days feel at the beginning of winter.
JAMES: Now we all know that the shortest day of the year, that is the day when there's the least time from sunrise to sunset is the day of the winter solstice, Friday December 21st, but it feels like the days are actually shorter at the beginning of December and get a little bit longer as we approach the solstice. Why?
DEAN: Well, astronomically speaking this feeling is real and can be explained. You see today, most people experience more sunsets than sunrises, and although the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in mid northern latitudes, nevertheless December 7th feels like the shortest day of the year because it is the day of the earliest sunset at mid northern latitudes. So because sunset occurs a little bit later each day after December 7th, the days do feel like they're a littler bit longer at the solstice.
JAMES: Now after the solstice, the 21st, until about January 5th, the days actually seem to lengthen more rapidly than they do because on January 5th we experience the day of the latest sunrise. Astronomer guy Ottewell puts it very nicely in a short simple sequence: #1: December 7th - earliest sunset, #2: December 21st - the shortest day, #3: January 5th - latest sunrise.
DEAN: So now you know why the days feel shorter at the beginning of December than on the winter solstice. After all most of us unconsciously judge the length of a day by the time on the clock when the sun sets. Isn't it fascinating how we perceive the universe around us?
DEAN: While we're watching that earliest sunset in early December, we have two planets to keep us company. Mars is in the western sky not far above the horizon. And Mars will stay there in the west every night through the holidays until February.
JAMES: And if you turn around and look to the east giant Jupiter will blaze away between the Pleiades and Aldebaran the bright red eye of Taurus the bull. The earth is passing between Jupiter and the sun this week which means Jupiter is at opposition and will be easily seen in the sky all night long. This will be the best time of the year to take s good look at Jupiter through a telescope. Plus a really special celestial sight to watch for will be on Christmas night when the full moon will be almost on top of Jupiter. And if you’re watching from South Africa or South America the moon will cover Jupiter in what we call an occultation.
DEAN: And in the morning sky Saturn, Venus and Mercury will still be in a straight line in the east before sunrise. A special treat will be on December 10th and 11th, when a skinny crescent moon will pass close to Saturn and then Venus.
JAMES: So be sure to notice and enjoy the earliest sunset on Dec. 7, the shortest day on Dec. 21, and the latest sunrise on Jan. 5th.
BOTH: Keep looking up!
Episode #12-48 "The Surest Sign of Winter"
ONE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
DEAN: And you've got one, go outside at 8 p.m. and you'll notice the surest sign of winter
JAMES: We're facing east any night this week and just above the horizon you'll see three evenly-spaced stars flanked by four brighter stars which mark Orion the hunter.
DEAN: All our lives we've been told that December 21st, the winter solstice, is the shortest day of the year, but the days at the beginning of December actually feel shorter. Why is that?
JAMES: Well, more people experience sunsets than sunrises and December 7th feels like the shortest day of the year because it is the day of the earliest sunset. And because sunset occurs a little bit later each day after December 7th the days do feel like they're getting longer as we approach the solstice.
DEAN: Of course, if you get up with the chickens, January 5th will feel like the shortest day because that's the day of the latest sunrise!
BOTH: Keep looking up
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