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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

 

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 24 to Thursday December 31

The Full Moon is Friday December 25.  Mercury is low in the evening sky.  Jupiter, Venus and Mars form a line in the morning sky and are joined by Saturn. Mars is close to the bright star Spica on the 25th. Venus comes closer to Saturn. Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina is higher in the morning sky.

The Full Moon is Friday December 25. This is the first full Moon to fall on Christmas Day since 1977.

Evening sky on Saturday December 26 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 21:15 ACDST.  Mercury is just above the horizon in the late twilight. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mercury starts to fall back into the twilight.

The early evening sky is now graced by Mercury low in the late evening twilight. Jupiter enters the evening sky in late December.

The evening is also graced by the summer constellations of Taurus (with the V shaped cluster the Hyades forming the head of Taurus the Bull and the beautiful Pleiades cluster nearby) Orion the Hunter and Canis Major with bright Sirius, the dog star, climbing above the eastern horizon.

Early morning sky on Friday December 25 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 ACDST showing Jupiter,  Mars, Venus, Saturn and comet C/2013 US10.  Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter  rises higher in the morning skies and is now easy to see in the pre-dawn dark. 

Mars is higher in the morning skies and is visible in the early twilight.

Venus is easy to see in the morning twilight. It is a  distinct "gibbous Moon" shape and is nice in a small telescope.


Saturn returns to the morning sky. You will need a clear, level horizon to see it effectively at the beginning of the week.


Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Saturn and the bright stars Regulus and Spica form a line in the sky this week. Mars starts the week close to the bright star Spica, and while it is closest on the morning of the 24th, on the morning on the 25th it is less than 10 arc seconds further away, and will still look close.

During the week Venus heads towards the head of the Scorpion, and Saturn.  By the end of the week Venus, Saturn and the red star Antares form a triangle low in the early twilight.

Comet C/2013 US10  is a telescope only object, and still difficult from the southern hemisphere. However, from the northern hemisphere it is looking quite good in telescopes.

The Christmas Moon rises on the 25th under the constellation of  Orion, with Taurus, the Pleiades and Canis Major nearby. This shows the north-eastern horizon at around 10:00 pm local daylight saving time. (click to embiggen).

If  beautiful Christmas morning planets are not enough, Christmas evening is rather special.


The rising full moon is the first Christmas Full Moon since 1977, a gap of 38 years. The next will not be until 2034, 19 years later.


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.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.
 
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/

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