Astronomy Events – December 2014

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by yaska77

Have you noticed it yet? That particular familiar smell in the air that tells you it’s going to be a frosty evening. Festive lights are starting to appear on houses and trees, and the queues of cars trying to get in and out of shopping centres gets longer day by day.

It can only mean the countdown to the holiday season is upon us, but in your rush to buy presents and make merry with family and friends, don’t forget that the coolest nights can provide you with the best seeing conditions for a little tour of the stars.

To help fire the enthusiasm we’ve taken it upon ourselves to list a few events of astronomical interest for the month of December, so wrap yourselves up extra warm, grab a flask of something hot and get out under the stars.

Happy Holidays from all at Sky-Watching!

Tuesday 2nd December – On this day in 1993 space shuttle Endeavour launched to provide the first in-orbit service of the Hubble Space Telescope

Saturday 6th December – The Full Moon today is sometimes known as the Christmas Moon, Snow Moon or Cold Moon, and can be found tonight in the Hyades cluster, part of the constellation Taurus

Look to the south about 22:30 UTC

Shot with a Canon EOS 550D mounted on a Sky-Watcher Explorer 200P Newtonian Reflector Telescope (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn
Shot with a Canon EOS 550D mounted on a Sky-Watcher Explorer 200P Newtonian Reflector Telescope (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Monday 8th December Mercury is in Superior Conjunction today, so is currently too close to the Sun for observation

Friday 12th December – Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 404,585 km (251,398 miles), the furthest point out in its orbit around the Earth this month

Saturday 13th December – The annual Geminid meteor shower heads towards peak this evening (and into the morning of 14th December). With the Moon not rising until gone 23:00 UTC it might be an opportunity to get youngsters out meteor hunting!

Shown to the east at 22:00 UTC on 13th December, the Geminid Meteor Radiant is the part of the sky all the meteors appear to come from (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium
Shown to the east at 22:00 UTC on 13th December, the Geminid Meteor Radiant is the part of the sky all the meteors appear to emanate from (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

The guide shows you the area of the night sky the meteors will appear to be streaking away from, but they could appear all over the sky, so just get comfy looking up

Meteor intensity should increase towards dawn, with the peak actually occurring around midday on Sunday

Sunday 14th December – This afternoon our Moon will be seen at Last Quarter phase

Tuesday 16th December – To help identify the constellations you can see throughout the month, below we’ve provided guide images for both southern and northern skies in December (shown as seen at 00:00 UTC on 16th December)

Shown at 00:00 UTC on 16th December, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking South (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium
Shown at 00:00 UTC on 16th December, both these images are a handy guide for the whole month. This is the view you’ll get looking South (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium
Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in December (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium
Displaying the night sky midway through the month, this image can help you identify the constellations you’ll see in the northern sky in December (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

Sunday 21st December – Today is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

And Apollo 8 launched on this day in 1968

Monday 22nd December – The New Moon rises with (and sets just after) the Sun today, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects when the skies are unaffected by moonlight

The Rosette Nebula can be found due south 00:20 UTC this morning. Look midway between Bellatrix (the top right star of Orion) and Procyon in Canis Minor (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium
The Rosette Nebula can be found due south 00:20 UTC this morning. Look midway between Bellatrix (the top right star of Orion) and Procyon in Canis Minor (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/Stellarium

The Rosette Nebula appears as a dusty cloud which you should be able to see with good binoculars or a small telescope (if your skies are dark enough!) and has star cluster NGC 2244 at its centre

The stars of the open cluster shine brightly, surrounded by the gas and dust that make up the Rosette Nebula (click to enlarge) - Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn
The stars of the open cluster shine brightly, surrounded by the gas and dust that make up the Rosette Nebula (click to enlarge) – Credit: Sky-Watching/A.Welbourn

Wednesday 24th December – Today the Moon is at Perigee (the closest point of its orbit to the Earth) at a distance of 364,790 km (226,670 miles)

And in 1968 Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon

Saturday 27th December – The “father of modern astronomy” Johannes Kepler was born on this day in 1571

Sunday 28th December – This evening the Moon can be seen at First Quarter phase

As usual, if you take any photos throughout December you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts and we’ll re-tweet them to your fellow sky-watchers!

Planets visible this month:

Jupiter
Mars
Mercury
Saturn
Neptune
Uranus
Venus

Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!

To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! 🙂

Guide images created with Stellarium

Archive:
Astronomy Events – November 2014
Astronomy Events – October 2014
Astronomy Events – September 2014

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. ady says:

    Thanks a lot sky-watcher! I will try to check some of the events,no telescope 😦 but its still promising 🙂

    Like

    1. yaska77 says:

      You’re welcome! We hope you get to enjoy some of the night sky this month! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on PreciousSmile☺ and commented:
    Astronomy Events- December 2014

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