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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 8 to Thursday December15

The Full Moon is Saturday December 10. There is a total eclipse of the Moon from late evening of the 10th to early morning 11th. Venus is easily visible in the western evening sky. Jupiter dominates the evening sky 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. Geminid Meteor Shower on the morning of the 15th.

Northern horizon as seen from Adelaide at 23:45 pm ACDST on December 10. The Moon is beginning to be eclipsed just below the Hyades. Similar views will be seen at the equivalent local time elsewhere in Australia. Click to embiggen.

The Full Moon is Saturday December 10. On the evening of the 10th and the morning of the 11th there is a total lunar eclipse visible from all of Australia.

The eclipse starts with the Moon with the Moon high in the sky. Although not as long as the June 16 eclipse all states will see totality.

The Moon enters the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow (the Umbra) at 23:46 pm on the east coast, 23:16 pm for the central states and 20:46 pm in Western Australia. Over the next hour you will see the shadow slowly creep over the Moons face until the Moon is covered by the shadow of the Earth (1:32 am eastern states, 1:02 am central states and 22:32 pm WA). All times except WA are Daylight Savings times.

You should see the stars becoming more visible as the Moon darkens. The Moon will not be completely dark, but will be a deep red colour. As it is just below the beautiful Hyades cluster, this will be most attractive. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to look at.

You can get more information from the eclipse section at Southern Skywatch, and some hints on observing and photographing the eclipse.

Morning sky looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am local daylight saving time on Sunday December 11 showing Mars near Regulus and Saturn near Spica. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

Mars is in the north-eastern morning sky, in the constellation of Leo. Mars is not far from the bright star Regulus and draws further away over the week.


In the morning Jupiter low is above the western horizon, setting before twilight.

Saturn is low above the north- eastern horizon, not far from the bright star Spica.

Evening sky on Saturday December 10 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 is now in Sagittarius, and passes close to the stars that form the handle of the "teapot" of Sagittarius.


Mercury is now lost in the twilight.

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 just before morning twilight.

Evening sky on Saturday December 10 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 10:00 pm local daylight saving time in South Australia showing Jupiter and the Moon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. INSET: Jupiter and its Moons as seen at this time, Passes behind Jupiter from 21:00 ACDST (click to embiggen)

In the evening Jupiter is readily visible in the north-eastern sky, from about 7 pm local time on.

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, but these are mostly in the early hours of the morning.

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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