Tuesday, December 16, 2014
The Sky This Week - Thursday December 18 to Thursday December 25
The New Moon is Monday December 22. Earth is at solstice, when the days are longest, at this time.
Mercury is low in the twilight, and may be visible by the end of the week.
Venus is still difficult to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is just under a hand-span above the horizon. While Venus is bright you will need a flat, clear horizon like the ocean to see it. On the 23rd Venus is visited by the thin crescent Moon.
Mars is easily seen in the western evening sky, setting around 11:30 daylight saving time. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the western horizon in the early evening.
Mars is in the constellation of Capricornius.
Saturn returns to the morning sky. On the 20th, it is very close to the crescent Moon, low on the horizon.
Jupiter rises higher in the morning sky, and now is easy to see above the horizon before twilight. Jupiter is the brightest object above the northern horizon. It is now not far from the bright star Regulus in the sickle of Leo (this forms the head of the constellation of the Lion).
Jupiter is now high enough for good telescopic observation before astronomical twilight. Jupiter's Moons will be putting on a good display, and there is an occulation of Europa and an transit of Io and Europa on the 22nd at 3 am.
C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky much faster than expected. The comet is passing below the star Canopus heading towards Orion, passing above Canis Major.
It is brightest in January, but is easily visible in binoculars now and people in dark sky sites have been able to see it with the unaided eye. Binoculars or small telescopes show it as a definite fuzzy patch. Instructions on viewing the comet and printable finding charts can be found here.
By Christmas, especially if you are out camping somewhere dark, it may be visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy star moving rapidly from night to night.This might be something special for Christams night or Christmas eve.
There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with the comet brightening rapidly in the early evening sky. 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.
Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Labels: weekly sky