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Poor Will's Almanack: December 5 - 11, 2017

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The dark sky sets the stage for the arrival of Early Winter. The Paperwhite Moon, bringing more holiday paperwhite bulbs into bloom, wanes gibbous into its final quarter on December 10. Rising late at night and setting near midday, this Moon passes above you before dawn.

In the east Mars and Jupiter are the morning stars together in Libra this week.  Arcturus, the most prominent star of Bootes, precedes them toward the center of the sky, chasing the Moon. Low in the northeast, Vega is rising.

And when the Sun comes up behind the morning stars, it begins the time of Sunstop, a period between today and January 8, during which the Sun holds within a degree of 23 degrees and 26 minutes (its solstice position), and produces a period of solar stability similar to the one between June 5 and July 8.

In winter Sunstop Time, Sunset is the earliest of the year, and the nights seem to never end. The last leaves fall from the woodland asters, and the stubborn beech leaves finally come down. Crows gather in vast murders to feed in the harvested fields, In spite of the cold and darkness, Lenten roses gradually show their buds, and sap quivers in the maples every thaw. The last sandhill cranes travel high toward the Gulf of Mexico. The short days urge the foxes to mate. Owls lay out their nests.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I'll be back again next week with notes for the second week of early winter. In the meantime, don’t despair over the short days and long nights. It’s just Sunstop time. Pretty soon the worm will turn.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.