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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

 

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

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday December 21, summer solstice. Mercury sinks toward the horizon.Venus is prominent in the evening sky in the star poor regions of Capricornius. Mars is just above Venus. Jupiter and the bright star Spica are close in the morning skies.

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday December 21. Earth is at solstice, when the days are longest, on the 21st as well.

Evening sky on Saturday December 17 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 ACDST (30 minutes after sunset). Mercury, Venus and (now dim) Mars form a line. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mercury sinks lower in the evening twilight. It is  visible above the western horizon from 30 minutes after sunset until a bit over an hour after sunset.

Mercury is near the bright star Nunki in the teapot's handle at the beginning of the week, then draws away as it heads to the horizon.

Venus  is high in the dusk sky and intensely bright. It can be seen easily from somewhat before half an hour after sunset to over two hours after sunset. It stays dazzlingly brilliant above the horizon in truly dark skies well into the evening. Venus has been mistaken for flares or landing aeroplanes it is so bright now.

Venus is in a very star poor field, and does not come close to anything interesting this week.
Venus is a distinct "half Moon" shape in telescopes.

Evening sky on Saturday December 17 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACDST, shortly before full dark has fallen.  Mars is in Caprciornius with Venus below above the western horizon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Mars is in the western evening skies in Capricornius, heading towards Aquarius. Mars remains in a star poor area.

Mars was at opposition on May 22,  and is still visibly dimming. While still brighter than any of the nearby stars, it is much faded and not immediately obvious, It is no longer a modest telescope object. Mars is visible most of the evening setting before midnight. In small telescopes Mars will be a visible, but tiny, gibbous disk, however you are unlikely to  see its markings.

 Saturn is lost in the twilight.

Morning  sky on Sunday December 18 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 ACDST (just under an hour before sunrise).  Jupiter is now reasonably high above the horizon and is in dark skies well before dawn. Similar views ill be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

Jupiter rises higher into the morning skies this week. It is now well above the eastern horizon and is easy to see as the brightest object above the eastern horizon from around an hour and a half before sunrise.

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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