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The interloper visits Spica and Mercury

Mercury is putting on its best pre-dawn show of 2013, more than doubling in brightness this week, from +1 magnitude to –0.5 (each order of magnitude is exponential, so an increase from +1 to 0 is a doubling). Monday marks the innermost planet’s greatest elongation — its farthest point away from the sun as seen from earth and its highest point above the horizon. Mercury rises a little before 6am and climbs nearly 15 degrees above the southeast horizon before the sun rises more than an hour later. Ten degrees above Mercury is blue-white Spica, but even this first-magnitude star pales compared to Mercury this week.
    First discovered last September, Comet ISON is heading into the inner solar system for the first time, coming within 700,000 miles of the sun November 27. If the comet survives that close encounter, it could live up to the comet of the century billing. If not, the next two weeks are your best chance to spot this long-distance traveler.
    With binoculars or a small telescope, look for ISON one degree to the west of Spica Sunday before dawn and less than one-half degree to the east of the star the next morning. By next Thursday and Friday, ISON will be within 10 degrees of Mercury — well within your binoculars’ field of view. Perhaps by then it will be bright enough to see with the unaided eye.
    Sunday marks the full moon, the Beaver Moon and the Frost Moon according to lore. The full moon floats just six degrees below the miniature dipper-shape of the Pleiades star cluster, while Monday night it is even closer to Aldebaran, the red eye of Taurus the bull.
    The full moon’s glow washes out all but the brightest meteors in this year’s Leonid shower, which peaks between the 16th and 18th. Still, the Leonids are active through the month, so patience or luck will likely reward you with a few of these shooting stars.

On and in the waters of the Patuxent

Old barns dripping with honeysuckle and trumpet vines, owlets in cobwebbed rafters, fishermen’s shacks on piers glistening with old fish scales, swallows’ nests glued beneath the splintery planks, pilings where ospreys build their messy nests like ornithological games of pick-up-sticks, duck blinds where wild ducks nest …
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Visiting friends and family gets you go-go-going

I lived on the verge of our nation’s capital my whole life until I moved to Vermont to go to college. Only when a friend from Sweden came home with me for spring break did I understand the treasure I’d taken for granted.
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One good trip recommends another

Scene: Living Room

Mackenzie: Mom! What are we going to do for vacation this year?

Heather: I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far. Any ideas?

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Flying the flag in Davidsonville

Love for your country is something we all agree on.
    At these World Cup parties, when all of your friends and family look at the flag and hold their hands on their hearts, it’s a truly beautiful sight. Obviously it’s a fun and goofy time in dressing decked out in red, white and blue for parties, but there’s something more serious underneath that rings true for all Americans, reminding us that we live in such a beautiful country.
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Sweeten your travels with smart fun

Did you know that the blue crab’s Latin name is Callinectes Sapidus, meaning beautiful savory swimmer? Maryland Bay Game, released by Department of Natural Resources to add smart fun to your home-state travels, is full of fun facts like this plus nature-related games.
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Summer happens at the ballpark

Some little girls have tiaras; I had a baseball cap. My parents raised me to believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of Baltimore baseball. I knew the players, their averages and that the Yankees were evil before I could tie my shoes. I also knew that shouting “O!” was perfectly appropriate during the National Anthem.
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For a sweet birthday, plan a favorites tour

My beloved, Nick, and I were three months into our relationship when his birthday arrived in August 2008. By then I knew what interested him — history, travel, sculpting — well enough to plan a day trip that combined it all. I did not tell him where we would go, just to wear sturdy shoes and bring a cap and sunscreen.
    On a sunny Sunday, we headed south on Route 2, eventually ending up at Colton’s Point in St. Mary’s County.
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Time traveling at Chesapeake Marketplace

Antiques? Do you like them?    
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Go quietly, look and listen

The best part of the Bay is just that. The water. Some like to race across the waves, bow plowing through each crest, spray flying with each jolt. I prefer to slip my kayak into the shallows and paddle the edges.
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