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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The Sky This Week - Thursday December 17 to Thursday December 24

The First Quarter Moon is Friday December 25. Jupiter is easily seen as the brightest object in the western evening sky. Mercury is low in the twilight evening sky. Jupiter and Mercury are visited by the Moon this week. In the morning, Mars and Saturn are easily seen above the north-eastern horizon near the bight stars Regulus and Spica. Algol dims.

Morning sky looking north-east showing Mars, Saturn, Regulus and Spica at 4:00 am local daylight saving time (3:00 am non-daylight saving) on Saturday December 12. Click to embiggen.

The First Quarter Moon is Friday December 25.

In the morning, Mars is readily visible in the eastern sky. Red Mars is now the constellation of Leo. Mars is a distinct gibbous disk in a small telescope, and becomes bigger and brighter during the week in the lead up to opposition in January.

Saturn is visible low in the morning sky between the bright stars Regulus and Spica. Mars, Regulus, Saturn and Spica from a nice lineup.

Bright white Venus is invisible the twilight glow and will not reappear until February.

South-Western horizon showing Mercury, the Moon and Jupiter at 21:00 pm local daylight saving time (20:00 pm non-daylight saving) on Friday December 18, click to embiggen.

Mercury can be seen above the south-western horizon between half an hour to an hour after sunset. Mercury is close to the thin crescent Moon on Friday 18 December.

Jupiter is easily seen as the brightest object in the western evening sky. Jupiter is big enough to be appreciated in even the smallest telescope. If you don't have a telescope to view Jupiter, why not go to one of your local Astronomical Societies or Planetariums open nights? Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars or a small telescope. Jupiter is close to the waxing Moon on Monday 21 December.

Earth is at Solstice, where the day is longest, on December 22.

The Northern horizon at 9:00 pm AEDST on December 18 showing the location of Algol.

Algol is classic variable star, but is usually hard to see from the southern hemisphere. This week we have a chance to see Algol dim and brighten under reasonable circumstances. On December 18th 10:28 pm Algol will be at its dimmest, over the next few hours you can watch it brighten.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm ADST, Western sky at 10 pm ADST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch. Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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