Stargazing in the Caribbean
copyright© 1998 Jeannie Kuich


Before dawn on the 8th check out with binoculars Mercury, Saturn and brilliant Venus which make their tightest clutch of the year low in the east before sunrise.† On the 16th the Moon makes a tight triangle with Venus and Saturn before dawn.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks on the 21st, so start monitoring it two or three early dawns before and after the peak.

Sun. 4th: Full
Sun. 11th: Last Quarter
Sun. 18th: New
Mon. 26th: First Quarter
Sun. 4th Mars and the star Pollux in Gemini before dawn
Wed. 7th: Moon and the Pleiades star sisters before dawn
Thu. 8th: Mercury, Venus and Saturn before dawn
Sun. 11th: Moon and the star Pollux in Gemini before dawn
Mon. 12th: Moon and Mars before dawn
Tue. 13th: Venus and Saturn before dawn
Wed. 14th: Moon and the star Regulus in Leo before dawn
Fri. 16th: Moon, Saturn and Venus before dawn
Sat. 17th: Moon and Mercury before dawn
Tue. 27th: Moon and Jupiter in late evening

          Four autumn birds fly in the Caribbean low southern sky in a group. Phoenix in the southeast is the only mythical bird of the four. This fabulous bird could live 500 years – holy cats! It perished in its nest during the time when the Sun reached its apex and its scorching rays set the nest on fire. Out of the ashes a little worm appeared and with the Sun’s life-giving heat, was transformed into a new Phoenix. This myth may sound a bit far-fetched but it is symbolic of the cyclic patterns of life, death and immortality.
          Grus the Crane which flies above and to the right of Phoenix low in the south appears more bird-like with its long neck stretching up to Pisces Australis, the Southern Fish, in order to snatch it for a tasty meal. Fishermen of the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific saw the extended neck as a fishing pole complete with line and hook. It’s easy to recognize this image even if you’re not a fisherman.
          Tucana the Toucan below Grus, on the other hand, may have been placed there because such a colorful, handsome bird deserved a spot in the southern sky. What’s more, it appears to sit with its feet clutching a most delicious morsel, perhaps in its eyes, called the Small Magellanic Cloud. This misty-looking silver shoal of stardust is one of the satellite galaxies situated near our own. This fuzzy mass may be visible to the unaided eye on clear, dark nights very low in the south in the lower Caribbean, but binoculars make it stunning.
          Last of the, is Pavo the Peacock. You’ll notice its brightest star Pavo easily as there is no other star so bright near it in the south. The Greek myth attached to this bird doesn’t mention the Peacock but alludes to the “eyes” in its magnificent tail feathers.
          Argus, the giant with one hundred eyes, makes an excellent watch dog, since hardly ever does all his eyes close at one time in sleep. Juno, Jupiter’s wife, orders Argus to guard Io, the pregnant mistress of Jupiter so that she cannot flee. But Jupiter cons Mercury, alias Elvis with his electric guitar plugged into the sky, to play such sweet slow love songs that finally, one by one, all of the eyes of Argus close and he falls asleep. Argus is killed, Io is rescued and Juno is temporarily out on her ear. Although justifiably angry at Argus, she places all of his eyes in the tail feathers of her favorite bird, the Peacock. You may see the eyes as the smattering of faint stars in Pavo.

Many other sky legends may be found in "Soap Operas Of The Sky", a stargazing guide by Jeannie Kuich.