December Astronomy

December Astronomy

| Categories: Eye on the Sky, Mark Breen, Planetarium News, Skywatch Almanac Astronomy

The longest nights of the year offer the greatest variety of stars and constellations.  Through the month, Orion rises earlier each evening, and dominates the eastern sky, often identified by his line of three “belt” stars.  Extending this line to the upper rights leads to the red star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the Bull, while looking to the lower left, the brilliant star Sirius is rising.

Skywatch Almanac is written by Mark Breen, voice of Eye on the Night Sky on Vermont Public Radio.

Planet viewing is confined to the pre-dawn hours, with Mars very slowly brightening in the southeast, joined later in the month by Jupiter, the pair delightfully close on New Year’s Eve.  Late in the month, Mercury offers a fairly good display, low in the southeast before our latest sunrises of the year.

Geminid Meteor Shower

Get outside at night this month to view the Geminid meteor showers! (iStockphoto.com)

The Geminids are one of the most exciting meteor showers of the year, with bright individual meteors, and peak meteor bursts of 120 per hour! The Geminids are named for their location in the sky near the constellation Gemini, in the northeastern sky. When a meteor enters the earth’s atmosphere and starts burning, it causes the streak of light we know as a “shooting star.” Best viewing is often around 2 AM, when the sky is darkest.

Highlights

3 – The Full “Cold” Moon rides high across the sky.

14 – Early risers see a thin Crescent Moon to the upper left of Jupiter, with a much fainter, reddish Mars well to their upper right.

21 – The Winter Solstice marks the calendar arrival of Winter at 11:28 AM EST.

30 – The waxing Gibbous Moon occults the red star Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus, the Bull from 6:29 PM through 7:27 PM this evening.

Sun & Moon

A winter sunrise, Woodstock VT (photo: bluepueblo.tumblr.com)

Sunrise December 1 7:04 AM EST

Sunset December 1 4:10 PM EST

Length of Day 9h 6m

Sunrise December 31 7:24 AM EST

Sunset  December 31 4:18 PM EST

Length of Day 8h 54m

Full “Cold” Moon: Dec 3rd

 
Last Quarter: Dec 10th

New Moon: Dec 18th
 
First Quarter: Dec 26th

 

Tags: astronomy, Fairbanks Museum, Mark Breen Skywatch, meteor shower