So my extended break from entering anything on this blog is broken as of today. I woke early this morning, not really intentionally, but I did, I looked at the clock and realized I was in time to get outside and perhaps see Mercury rising just before the sun. It has been rising early enough the past week or so but the skies have not been clear enough to see anything. So I slipped from the warm blankets and grabbed a thick sweater before heading downstairs. I checked the thermometer–5 below zero. I would have to suit up.
With snowpants over my pajama pants, thick socks and a couple of layers on top, I slipped on a hat and gloves and grabbed my binoculars. The snow squeaked on the porch, loudly enough that I thought it might wake the children asleep upstairs. I stepped through the knee-deep snow out to the field. I perched myself next to a birdhouse on a post and scanned the horizon. This time of year the sun rises north of Camel’s Hump, so I looked there, but I saw nothing. I was not sure what time Mercury might rise over the hills, so I waited.
In the meantime I checked the star chart on the Planets app on my iPod Touch. This app shows the rise and set times for all the planets, based on your location. It also shows what constellations are visible. Venus glowed brightly next to Scorpio. I wanted to learn a new constellation, as the ones I know are few. I found Virgo and spent some time trying to burn it into my memory. I had a hard time visualizing that set of stars as a reclining woman, but I got a good look at it.
I was warm enough in all my layers so I kept waiting. I finally did see something in the general area I was looking, but it seemed too far south, and it seemed to blink. I watched in the binoculars, resting them on the birdhouse. It wasn’t exactly a high powered telescope on a tri-pod but it worked well enough. It kept rising and heading further south so after a bit I knew I had my planet. After about 45 minutes in the same spot I headed in. The stars were faded and I could hardly see Mercury. Since Mercury won’t be visible until December, it was well worth rising in the cold and dark. I even managed to stay warm.
Once inside, before the sun rose over the Mountains, the temperature dropped to 7 below zero. Not a warm morning. I cranked the fire and fired up a cafe latte. I sat back with a book and waited for the children to rise. Now, the sun up, the mercury is rising a little higher. It won’t get hot today, but it will be warm enough to play outside for a while. I plan to take several laps around the field on my skis. We have enough snow this year for a great nordic track and we–adults and children–have taken advantage of it every day we have been able to do that. I won’t be getting up quite so early tomorrow, unless I decide to get a ski in before I head to work. Even if it isn’t as cold as this morning, however, that ski just may have to wait until late afternoon.