This Week in Nature Dec 28 – January 3

And so ends the last few days of the old year, and enters the first few days of the new.

“Full knee-deep lies the winter snow
And the winter winds are wearily sighning
Toll ye the church-bell sad and slow,
And tread softly and speak low
For the old year lies a-dying…

Map of the Winter Sky:

Winter sky 2

Winter nights are long and dark and filled with the brightest and most abundant display of stars. The brighter the star, the lower its apparent magnitude number. For example, Sirius, the brightest star visible from Earth, has an apparent magnitude of -1.46, whereas Castor B, the third brightest star in the constellation Gemini, has an apparent magnitude of 2.92.

Old year you must not die
You came to us so readily
You lived with us so steadily
Old year you shall not die…



This meteor shower peaks between January 3 and 4, reaching up to about 40 meteors per hour. Due to the light from the last quarter moon, it may be difficult to view all but the brightest meteors, which will radiate from just below the Big Dipper.

He was full of joke and jest
But his merry quips are o’er
To see him die, across the waste
His son and heir doth ride post-haste
But he’ll be dead before…



On January 2, Earth reaches its closest orbital point to the Sun for this year: 91.4 million miles (147.1 million km). Earth is 3.1 million miles (5 million km) closer to the Sun at perihelion than where it is as its farthest point (aphelion) on July 4.

Everyone for his own
The night is starry and cold, my friend
And the new-year, blithe and bold, my friend
Comes up to take his own…

Jupiter & Moon:

moon and jupiter

These two celestial bodies appear together at night on December 31.

His face is growing sharp and thin
Alack! Our friend is gone;
Close up his eyes, tie up his chin,
Step from the corpse and let him in
That standeth there alone…

Mars & Moon:

mars and moon

These two celestial bodies appear together at night on January 3.

And waiteth at the door.
There’s a new foot on the floor, my friend
And a new face at the door, my friend
A new face at the door.”
– “The Death of the Old Year,” Tennyson

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