December Skies 2013
Comet ISON passed perilously close to the Sun on November 28th, only 750,000 miles above the blistering surface. Little, if any of the comet survived, becoming a footnote in astronomy history. The longest nights of the year offer the greatest variety of stars and constellations. Jupiter, King of the Planets, reigns over the evening skies, and keeps good company in Orion, perhaps the “king of the stars”. Actually, Jupiter is in the stars of Gemini, highlighted by its twin stars Castor and Pollux. Through the month, Orion rises earlier each evening, and dominates the eastern sky, often identified by his line of three “belt” stars. Venus is at its best early in the month, diving into the twilight by the end of the year.
19 – One of the outstandingly bright stars in the skies passes nearly overhead tonight. Capella is dazzling in the east-northeast, about half way from the horizon to the zenith at 6:45 PM. By 11:00 PM EST, the 4th brightest star we can see from the northern hemisphere is almost straight above.
20 – Rising at 7:07 PM this evening is the first of the two "dog stars". Procyon literally means to precede, and is the brightest star in the Little Dog. The brilliant Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, rises farther to the southeast about 7:40 PM, along with the waning Gibbous Moon much farther right.
21 – Winter Solstice occurs at 12:11 PM EST this afternoon, giving us our longest night of the year, and the shortest daylight hours. Today is also when the Sun rises and sets at its most southerly positions east and west, and climbs to its lowest midday position in the south.
The Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity Rover
This is the home page for the Curiosity Rover. Explore the site to find images, videos, and volumes of science information.
The Mars Exploration Program
This is the home page for all of the on-going missions to Mars.
The Mars page of the website Nine Planets
Nine Planets is a great website featuring information about each planet (and even though there are only eight “planets”, you’ll find information about nearly all of the moons, dwarf planets, and other small solar system bodies)
Sky & Telescope's Interactive Star Chart
Follow the directions to get a chart that will show the sky for any location, at any time.
The Old Farmer's Almanac
This is a great source of sunrise and sunset tables, the Moon, its phases, as well as the viewing of planets, meteors, and eclipses throughout the year.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Each day brings a fascinating look at astronomy, and an explanation of what you are seeing.
Vermont Astronomical Society
The Vermont Astronomical Society (VAS) is a group of amateur astronomers that has been serving northern Vermont for over 45 years. Membership ranges from beginning naked-eye stargazers to advanced amateurs with home observatories and elaborate equipment.
This is the home of NASA, where science ranges from the Earth to the ends of the universe. That means there's a lot to explore!
Magazines: Sky & Telescope Magazine Astronomy Magazine
News and information about the Earth-Sun environment.
Books: There are thousands of books, and each has information that can be helpful. You might collect a few before you find one that matches your taste and way of thinking about astronomy. To help you get started, check with your local library or favorite book store for the following titles:
The Stars by H. A. Rey
Rey, well known for writing and illustrating the "Curious George" books, wrote this wonderful introduction to the night sky in the 1950s, and it remains one of the best for a wide range of ages and interests.
NightWatch by Terrence Dickinson
This ring-bound book leads the beginning star gazer through the heavens, rich in photographs, charts, and lots of practical information.
Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning by Richard Hinkley Allen
For those who love the myths and origins of star names and constellations, this is a wonderful start. Some of the interpretations have been challenged in recent years as others have looked into the subject, so it is not considered the final authority. But it is still a wealth of ideas and information.
Night Sky: A Guide to Field Identification (Golden Field Guides) by Mark R. Chartrand
This all around guide book shows you how to find the constellations, describes the nature of the heavens and the objects we see, and how to set up and use a telescope
Exploring the Night Skies with Binoculars by David Chandler
This is must, because it gives such practical and realistic expectations about what you can see.
Also of interest:
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy by Christopher De Pree and Alan Axelrod
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
365 Starry Nights by Chet Raymo
The Sky: A User’s Guide by David Levy