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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 15 to Thursday December 22

The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday December 18. Venus is easily visible in the western evening sky. Jupiter dominates the evening sky to the north once Venus has set. Mars is visible in the morning sky and is close to the star Regulus. Saturn is now visible in the morning sky near the star Spica. On the 17th and 18th the Waning Moon is near Mars and on the 20th it is near Saturn. Geminid Meteor Shower on the morning of the 15th.

Morning sky looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am local daylight saving time on Tuesday December 20 showing Mars near Regulus and Saturn near Spica and the waning Moon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The Last Quarter Moon is Sunday December 18.

Mars is in the north-eastern morning sky, in the constellation of Leo. On the 17th and 18th the waning Moon is close to Mars.



Saturn is above the north- eastern horizon, not far from the bright star Spica. On the 20th the Moon forms an attractive triangle with Spica and Saturn.

Mercury appears low in the morning twilight. You will need a flt, clear eastern horizon to see it.

Evening sky on Saturday December 17 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 9:00 pm local daylight saving time in South Australia showing Venus in Sagittarius. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen)

Bright white Venus is readily visible in the evening western twilight sky from around half an hour after sunset for somewhat over an hour. Venus leaves Sagittarius and enters Capricornius by the end of the week, but does not pass any bright stars.

Jupiter was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest as seen from Earth, on Saturday the 29th of October. However, Jupiter will be a great binocular and telescope object for many weeks to come. Jupiter is visible for most of the night, setting in the early morning.

Evening sky on Saturday December 17 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 10:00 pm local daylight saving time in South Australia showing Jupiter. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. INSET: Jupiter and its Moons as seen at this time, Europa infront of Jupiter from around 22:00 ACDST (click to embiggen)

In the evening Jupiter is readily visible in the north-eastern sky, from about twilight.

Now is a good time to begin telescopic observation of this massive world, or follow its moons in binoculars. For good telescopic observation Jupiter is best from 9 pm - 1 am.

There are some good Jupiter Moon events, as on the evening of December 17. .

Although Jupiter is the most prominent now, there are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

The radiant of the Geminid meteor shower above the northern horizon as seen from Adelaide on the morning of December 15 at 3:00 pm ACDST, similar views will be seen from other sites at equivalent local times.

The Geminid Meteor shower is at its peak from the point of view of Australian's on the mornings of Wednesday 14 December (13 December UT) and Thursday 15 December. The best time to observe is between 1 and 4 am (daylight saving time, 12-3 am non-daylight saving time), with the highest rates between 2-3 am daylight saving time.

The Moon will unfortunately be just above the Geminid radiant, so only low meteor rates will be seen. In Australia we should see roughly a meteor every 6 minutes.

You can check predictions for you local site with the NASA meteor flux estimator (scroll down to 4 Geminids in the SHOWER box, make sure you have your location and date correct as well)..

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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