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The Christmas Star

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On December 21, 2020 Jupiter and Saturn will be so close to each other that they may appear as one bright "star". This heavenly conjunction has not appeared in this part of the sky since Genghis Khan was at the height of his power 800 years ago. And it won't happen again for another 60 years. Was this the star that guided three travelers to the manger of Jesus in Bethlehem? Johannes Kepler, the influential astronomer, is reported to say that it very well could have been. We don't know for sure. Will this Great Conjunction cause a shift in California's tectonic plates, as some have predicted? Will it affect your love life if you are a Capricorn? Or an Aries? I don't know about that. But something special may be happening.

This unusual alignment will occur during the winter solstice. Is this significant? It could be; solstice means "sun stands still", so perhaps before the northern hemisphere of earth tilts toward the sun there may be a momentary pause where the gravitational power of this conjuction results in a greater amount of stardust falling upon earth. Stardust! What's that?

Just what it sounds like. Stardust is made of elements that were released from a star when it exploded as a supernova. Elements are matter that cannot be broken down into simpler substances. Elements are the fundamental building blostardust infographic two column.jpg.thumb.768.768cks of stars, planets, mountains, oceans, dogs, cats and you. The death of a star is the beginning of new life as elements are hurled through space to be recombined into new stars and all forms of organic and inorganic matter. Every element in your body originally came from the nuclear energy of a star. We are, literally, stardust.

The bright embrace of Jupiter and Saturn on the evening of December 21 will shine with the reflected light of our sun. That sunlight has travelled about 548 million miles from Jupiter and over a billion miles from Saturn to rest upon your eyes. Imagine how much stardust that light has passed through. It's a bit hard to fathom, but in that mystery lies the beauty and the benefit of gazing at this unearthly wonder in the night sky.

Watching the The Grand Conjunction of 2020 is an opportunity to pause and reflect on your life. Take a mindful look at this cosmic phenomenon. Pause a while to think about what you are seeing. Between you and this "Christmas Star" are countless elements of stardust that have existed since the dawn of time billions of years ago. The intergalactic spaces are filled with the primordial matter that formed the Earth and that exist within you and all matter of beings upon this beautiful planet.

In a very real sense, we are immortal. The calcium, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, sulfur, etc. that make up our structure do not die. These elements are constantly recycled so that what today makes up your bones may in years to come be the trunk of a tree, the eye of a fish, or the stones in a river. It can be very comforting to contemplate these possibilities; to know that we are more than what we appear to be. This awareness helps to soften the hard edges of everyday reality - the aches and pains of body and mind - and to truly realize that all things are fundamentally more alike than they are different.

I'm hoping the sky is clear for the two or three evenings around 12/21, but even if it's cloudy, I'm looking forward to standing outside and looking into the southwest sky in twilight for the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction which will be quite low in the sky. I may bring out my bird-watching binoculars and try to see the moons of these two largest planets in our solar system. Then I'll turn toward the east-southeast and enjoy the display of Orion as he rises high a few hours later. I will certainly do the "Plucking Stars" exercise of Winter Qigong. And then I'll just stand tall in my yard next to the apple trees and bask in the fall of stardust all around me as I peacefully breathe in and out.

Cluster of young stars about one million years old

Cluster of young stars, each about a million years old, in the North America Nebula.