Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

Eric Douglas sig

Over the years, my daughters have learned how much I hate the loss of daylight. (I grumble a lot.) And they all know that while the improvement is small, that I look forward to the day after the Winter Solstice when the amount of daylight increases by a minute or so.

The first three weeks of December are pretty miserable, as far as I’m concerned. The only offset is the Christmas lights that brighten things up. Come Dec. 22, it is still dark and cold, but I can be optimistic that there is a little more light and that it will continue to increase into June.

On average, there are two more minutes a day between now and the Summer Solstice. It is bit less than two minutes at the beginning and end and more in the middle – the Spring (Vernal) Equinox.

That’s my little bit of optimism for the winter. It’s the best I can do at the moment.

Unrelated to Earth and the rhythms of light and dark, but this Winter Solstice also looks to have a really cool cosmic event. The two largest planets in our solar system are going to look like they are on top of each other. That’s called a “conjunction.”

Jupiter and Saturn are actually hundreds of thousands of miles apart, but from our perspective, they will appear to nearly merge.

Exactly how they know this, I’m not sure, (I don’t profess to understand much of anything to do with science at that level), but astronomers say the last time this happened was in the Middle Ages. March 4, 1226, to be exact. For what it’s worth, some astronomers believe that the Star of Bethlehem was a convergence of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus.

To see this bright Christmas star, look to the southwest on Dec. 21, about 45 minutes after sunset.

Instances like this always make me think about what the people of the Middle Ages, or before, thought when things like this happened. I mean, the days keep getting shorter and shorter and then a bright light appears in the sky that was never there before.

Now that I think of it, our current distrust of science will likely lead to conspiracy theories and prophecies of doom connected to these events.

For me, though, I hope to find a place to view the new, short-lived “star” in the sky and then begin watching for the days to get longer.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. For more information, visit or contact him at

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at