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Resilience seen in New England’s habitats and skies

Nature's Notebook

This week’s Nature’s Notebook was compiled from contributions from several nature experts. Look for a report on the return of waterfowl, from Sharon Audubon, in our issue of April 2.

Great Mountain Forest

Jody Bronson, forest manager for the Great Mountain Forest in Norfolk and Falls Village says:

I guess it’s my nature not to panic; maybe it’s the way I was brought up or the fact that I’m a forester. Change in the forest can take a long time.

The weather patterns this year have been a little strange but the forests in this part of Connecticut have seen it before. The buzz word in the forestry world now is resilience. We live in an area that has proven resilience. Our area of the state was completely clear-cut to make charcoal for the iron industry in the 1800s but the forest grew back.

The trees in our backyards have seen wet years, dry years, windstorms, ice storms and freezing cold temperatures. Somehow they just keep plugging along.

True New Englanders never panic. Maybe we learned it from the trees.

The stars and planets

Roger Liddell of Sharon shared An Astronomy News Flash: The sky, at least, is not falling — and that’s a welcome contrast to everything else!

In fact, the planets have maintained their proper, leisurely paths through the skies, entirely unruffled by our travails. Perhaps we can take a measure of comfort from this.

All five of the naked eye planets — excluding Uranus and Neptune — can be observed right now, a somewhat unusual but not rare situation.

It is, however, a real  opportunity to recognize them:  Building on this one occasion, you could learn to follow the four major planets through the skies for the rest of your lives. No kidding!

The planets don’t just wander randomly out there, choosing to appear wherever celestial winds blow them. They follow a narrow path across the sky at all times — and, very importantly, they may spend months or even years moving through the same part of the sky.

Without undue effort, you’ll find it surprisingly easy to recognize which is which. It’s like checking in with old friends.  Why not start the process now?

The easiest is Venus. As discussed in previous Nature’s Notebook articles, it’s been putting on a spectacular evening show for months.

By far the brightest planet, Venus reached its most easterly distance from the sun on March 24. It will brighten for a month as it slowly descends toward the 

sun’s glare in the west.  

At this time, Venus is as perfectly positioned for its grand show as it will be for years; don’t miss it.

After passing between us and the sun, Venus will appear in the morning sky, remaining there for the rest of the year.

Finally, all the other naked eye planets are closely bunched in the southeasterly sky before dawn, a superb sight for early risers.  By 5:30 a.m., you can observe reddish Mars very close to bright Jupiter, with Saturn closer to the horizon. Elusive Mercury rises later than the other three, so you won’t be able to see it until almost 6 a.m., well below Saturn.

A key point: Planets do not twinkle; only stars do. Just observe for 15 or 20 seconds: no twinkle, no star! That’s an easy way to start making planetary friends.

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