Astronomy Events – December 2011November 30, 2011
Ever get that feeling that you always suffer bad luck? The main nemesis of the amateur astronomer is clouds, and it just feels that every chance we’ve had time to get our ‘scopes out recently have coincided with clouds/rain/wind. We remain ever hopeful however that December will give us some opportunities for sky-watching and image taking!
Here is a list of upcoming astronomy events for December to inspire your own astronomical interests.
Friday 2nd December - First quarter Moon. This is possibly the best time to view the Moon with optical aids, as the area around the terminator (the line between the day/night sides of the Moon) is a fantastic sight full of lunar craters and mountains
Tuesday 6th December – Moon at Apogee (405,415 km), with a very bright Jupiter just beneath it. Following them across the sky you’ll see first the Pleiades cluster, the Hyades cluster and then the constellation of Orion (the Hunter)
Saturday 10th December – Full Moon (also known as the Snow or Christmas Moon). There is also a total lunar eclipse visible from Eastern Europe, East Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific
Unfortunately from the UK the Moon will have already started leaving the umbra before moonrise (about 16:00 UTC/GMT), and the Earth’s shadow will only partially cover the Moon for another 15 minutes or so
Tuesday 13th December – Jupiter’s moon Ganymede will cast a shadow across the southern part of the giant planet this evening. It should start just before 18:00 UTC/GMT and will continue for around 2 hours
Wednesday 14th December – The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak this evening (see below for radiant guide) but as with the Leonid shower in November the Moon will be very close to the radiant. Don’t let this discourage you though, as meteors can appear far from the radiant so you should still see some (the ZHR is expected to be anything up to 100 per hour)
Sunday 18th December – Last quarter Moon
Wednesday 21st December – Winter Solstice is tonight (this actually happens at 05:30 UTC/GMT on 22nd). The Sun reaches its lowest point in the sky (as viewed from the Northern Hemisphere) so we get the shortest day and the longest night
Friday 23rd December – Mercury is at it’s greatest western elongation today, meaning it is visible as an early morning object until the end of the year, appearing above the southeast horizon just before 06:30 UTC/GMT with the Moon directly below it
Saturday 24th December – New Moon. Over the coming evenings with the Moon out of the way it’s a great time to have a look at some deep sky objects, such as nebulae and galaxies. During December the constellation Cassiopeia is virtually overhead (as seen from Northern Europe and North America) and is an easily recognisable “W” pattern, with our closest neighbour galaxy Andromeda (see above) a beautiful object to view. See if you can find it!
Tuesday 27th December - The waxing crescent Moon will make a nice pairing with Venus in the evening twilight sky. Visible to the south west from nightfall it could provide a good target for those with a DSLR camera (see below)
Planets visible this month:
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!
We’ve also added the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right (where this guide will appear), so next time you visit you can find it again easily!
Guide images created with Stellarium