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Friday, April 29, 2022

Star Stories, part 21: A Celestial Love Affair

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Ojibwe Star Map print A Celestial Love Affair

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Ishpiming Zaagi'idiwin (A Celestial Love Affair)

Early risers this moon have been treated to an incredible and rare spectacle – an ishpiming zaagi'idiwin or "celestial union": the almost perfect alignment of four akiwag (planets) in the night sky. But it's not over yet! In the early hours of the 30th sunrise of the Sugarbushing Moon (April) we'll have the chance to see Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki (Venus)* and Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki (Jupiter)* become one - as they appear to move incredibly close together from our vantage point. The intermingling of Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki and Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki, which will last only two days, will make the akiwag appear to 'almost collide.' The two celestial bodies are among the brightest objects currently present in the night sky. In fact, the two akiwag will get so close in the night sky that they'll seem to merge into one giant, glowing mass to the naked eye.

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Position of Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki and Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki on 30 April

Those with zhiibaa'aabanjiganan (binoculars or a telescope) will be able to make out the two akiwag more distinctly. The akiwag will be 0.2 degrees apart at their closest approach – a little less than the angular distance of waawiyezi-dibik-giizis (a full moon).
The spectacle will be visible again in the dawn hours of the first sunrise of Zaagibagaa-giizis (Budding Moon; the Month of May), but the position of the akiwag will be reversed. The akiwag aren't actually close to each other at all – their orbits will simply appear to line up from our view of the night sky here on Earth. The planets will actually be 430 million miles (690 million km) apart – more than four times the distance between Omizakamigokwe (the Earth) and Giizis (the Sun). (If anything actually got close enough to 'nearly collide' with Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki it would more than likely be pulled into the gas giant's orbit along with its 79 known moons – the largest of which is bigger than Oshkaabewis (Mercury)*) This apparent 'merging' of Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki and Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki is the second conjunction we've seen this moon, after Akwaabikizid Aki* and SaturnDitibininjiibizon Gitigaanii Aki* lined up at the start of the Sugarbushing Moon.
However, neither of these two conjunctions rival the 'Great Conjunction' between Saturn and Venus that we witnessed at the end of 2020.


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Ishpiming Zaagi'idiwin Star Map detail

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How to see the conjunction

Just like the planetary alignment of Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki (Venus), Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki (Jupiter), Akwaabikizid Aki (Mars),* and Ditibininjiibizon Gitigaanii Aki (Saturn)* we saw this past week, to view the conjunction between Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki and Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki, you'll need to wake up early. The two akiwag will be most visible in the hour before dawn, looking toward waabanong (the east). "Venus" will be at magnitude -4, and "Jupiter" will be shining at magnitude -2.1. The full moon, by comparison, shines at -12.7. (But the event coincides with a new moon, so it will hardly be visible.) Major planetary alignments like this one, visible to the human eye, are extremely rare, and have only occurred three times since 2005, so you don't want to miss it... ______________________________________________________________ *Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki ("Great Chief Lightning Planet") = Jupiter *Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki ("the Bright Planet That Spins Backwards") = Venus *Akwaabikizid Aki ("It-Is-a-Certain-Length-Planet") = Mars *Ditibininjiibizon Gitigaanii Aki ("Ring Around the Garden Planet") = Saturn *Oshkaabewis ("The Sun's Ceremonial Helper") = Mercury ______________________________________________________________ Click here to read more about Jupiter Click here to read more about Venus Click here to read more about Mars Click here to read more about Saturn Click here to read more about Mercury


Illustration: Ishpiming Zaagi'idiwin ("A Celestial Union"), digipainting by Zhaawano Giizhik. © 2022 Zhaawano Giizhik. 15,748 x 23,622 in (40 x 60 cm) wall prints are soon available! > Visit the website to see more prints

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