Tracking the Beaver Moon
As the evening sky darkens, Mars appears briefly, low in the southwest, a red-orange glimmer as bright as any star. This is the best view of the red planet we’ll have for many weeks.
As Mars sinks from view, Jupiter rises in the northeast, far brighter than any star. Jupiter is surrounded by the stars of Taurus, midway between the bull’s glaring red eye, Aldebaran, and its horns, El Nath and Al Hecka. Surrounding Aldebaran are the stars of the Hyades cluster, the fabled sons of the Titan Atlas. Above that, marking the bull’s shoulder, are the daughters of Atlas, the Pleiades star cluster. While the Hyades are the brighter of these two groupings, the Pleiades are more compact.
Wednesday the 28th, Jupiter pairs with the full moon. In Native American folklore, this is the beaver moon. The beaver is a builder like humans and a spirit animal with great power. Like us, the beaver prepares for winter as the cold begins to tighten its hold on the land and water. Their fur is at its thickest, their bodies at their fattest. Hunting and trapping them, the Indians shared in the animal’s power of survival. By the next full moon, the creeks and ponds will be frozen and the beavers hibernating deep in their lairs.
By midnight Jupiter is high in the south and by 5am is poised above the west horizon. At the same time, Venus is rising in the east. Within an hour, this Morning Star is well positioned in the east-southeast and is by far the brightest object other than the sun and moon. Compare that to modest Saturn, which appears no brighter than the average star.
Saturn has slowly inched toward Venus, and before dawn Monday the two pass within a fraction of a degree of one another. Before then, look for Saturn to the lower left of Venus; come Tuesday morning, it stands above the Morning Star.