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Tuesday, December 08, 2009


The Sky This Week - Thursday December 10 to Thursday December 17

The New Moon is Wednesday December 16. Jupiter is is easily seen as the brightest object in the western evening sky. Mercury is low in the twilight evening sky. In the morning, Mars is easily seen above the north-eastern horizon. Saturn is close to the dawn horizon. The crescent Moon form a line with Mars and Saturn. The Gemind meteor shower returns.

Morning sky looking north-east showing Mars, Saturn and the Moon at 4:00 am local daylight saving time (3:00 am non-daylight saving) on Saturday December 12. Click to embiggen.

The New Moon is Wednesday December 16.

In the morning, Mars is readily visible in the eastern sky. Red Mars is now the constellation of Leo. Mars is a distinct gibbous disk in a small telescope, and becomes bigger and brighter during the week in the lead up to opposition in January.

Saturn is visible low in the morning sky between the bright stars Regulus and Spica.

On Saturday December 12 the crescent Moon is close to Spica, forming a nice line with Saturn, Regulus and Mars.

Bright white Venus is invisible the twilight glow and will not reappear until February.

South-Western horizon showing Mercury at 21:00 pm local daylight saving time (20:00 pm non-daylight saving) on Monday December 14, click to embiggen.

Mercury can be seen above the south-western horizon between half an hour to an hour after sunset. Mercury is close to the bright star Nunki in the handle of the "teapot" of Sagittarius on the 14th and 15th.

Jupiter is easily seen as the brightest object in the western evening sky. Jupiter is big enough to be appreciated in even the smallest telescope. If you don't have a telescope to view Jupiter, why not go to one of your local Astronomical Societies or Planetariums open nights? Jupiter's Moons are readily visible in binoculars or a small telescope.

The northern horizon at 2:00 am AEDST as seen from Southern Australia (northern Australia is similar but Gemini and the radiant is higher in the sky) on Monday December 14. The Geminid radiant is marked with a cross.

The Geminids are a fairly reliable meteor shower and this year moonlight will not interfere. Unlike the Leonids, where there is a very narrow peak of high activity, the Geminids have a broad peak and will show good activity well before and after the peak, and on the day before and after.

The radiant doesn't rise until just before midnight (daylight saving time) in most of Australia, so you will still have to disturb your sleep for this one. Australians should see a meteor every two to three minutes under dark skies in the early morning of the 14th, between 1:00 am and 4:00 am local time. You can find predictions for your local site at the meteor flux estimator (choose 4 Geminids and date 13-14 December, don't forget to change the date to 2009).

At 1.00 am in the morning AEDST (midnight, AEST) Castor (alpha Geminorum) is about two handspans above the horizon and 10 handspans to the left of due north. Pollux, the other twin, is less than a handspan to the left again. The radiant is just below Pollux.

As well, Orion and the Hyades will be visible and bright Mars will be nearby. So it will be a quite nice morning for sky watching. Keep an eye out for satellites!

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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