Planetary proximity

Venus and Jupiter look like they’re cozying up together in the Western sky tonight and tomorrow night.

The are within three degrees of each other — the width of your thumb at arm’s length (try it — stick your thumb out there). With the relative lack of light pollution in the little burg of Hampshire, I observed them through the leafless trees in my back yard tonight. Venus is brighter (of course she is) because she is relatively closer to Earth than Jupiter.

In third grade, my teacher created one of those famed bulletin board displays that burns into one’s brain like witnessing a fellow third grader puke green beans all over his melmac tray at lunch. You just can’t erase the memory.

Because of her (the teacher, not the source of green vomit), I understand the order of the planets and what makes them unique — tiny Mercury, cloudy Venus,  life-giving Earth, red Mars, Jupiter with its weird eye, ringed Saturn, unremarkable Uranus and Neptune and, at the time, far-flung Pluto. Since the ’70s, Pluto lost its standing as a planet and is now considered just a big hunk of space rock but the nostalgic armchair astronomists assign her past title like a head of state. Once President Bush, always President Bush. Once Planet Pluto, always Planet Pluto.

And yes, I did that on purpose. Astronomist = astronomer + astrologist. While I can guess what happens with Venus, the planet of love and beauty, dances near to Jupiter, the symbol of growth, expansion and prosperity, I’m not astrologist. You’re on your own.

Getting nostalgic for third grade and thinking of dancing planets has me musing philosophical about another bit of random pop culture.

Goddess on the mountain top,
Burning like a silver flame,
The summit of beauty and love,
And Venus was her name.

~ “Venus” performed by Bananarama

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