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Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The Sky This Week - Thursday December 19 to Thursday December 26

Summer Solstice is on December 22. The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday December 25. Mars is prominent in the early morning, the Moon is close to Mars on the 26th. Saturn rises higher in the morning sky. Venus is easily visible  in the western evening sky. Jupiter is visible in the evening sky now, the Moon is close to Jupiter on the 19th. The bright Nova near Beta Centauri is still visible with the unaided eye.

The Last Quarter Moon is Wednesday December 25. The Moon is at apogee on the 20th.

Evening sky looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:00 pm ACDST  on Saturday December 21.  Venus is the early evening sky.  The inset shows the telescopic view of Venus. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local times.  Click to embiggen.

Venus is even deeper  in the evening twilight. However, it can easily be seen shortly after sunset (indeed, with a little effort you can see it before sunset) until  the early evening.

The brightest (spectacularly so) object above the western horizon it is still visible up to two hours or more after sunset (depending on how flat your western horizon is) when the sky is fully dark. Venus is continuing to sink to the horizon, but will be spectacular for the next couple of weeks.

Venus is in the constellation of Sagittarius, although it will be hard to see the stars in the twilight. Venus is a distinct, wire thin crescent moon shape in even small telescopes. This week Venus rapidly heads for the horizon as it becomes larger and thinner.

Evening sky on Thursday December 19 looking north as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 pm ACDST in South Australia. The inset shows the view of Jupiter through a telescope at this time. The Moon is close to Jupiter. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is in the constellation Gemini.

rises around 10:00 pm local daylight saving time, but is still best for telescopes in the early morning. In the morning it is now well above the northern horizon near the bright stars Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini. It is quite easy to see in the morning sky well into the twilight.  Jupiter's Moons are now readily visible in binoculars. Jupiter is close to the Moon on the 19th.

Morning sky on Thursday December 26 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:00 am ACDST in South Australia. Mars is high above the horizon, Saturn is low above the horizon. The waning Moon is close to Mars. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Mars is is in the constellation of  Virgo. Saturn is in Libra.

Mars rises still higher in the morning twilight, and is visible well before twilight.  It is visited by the waning Moon on the 26th.

 Saturn is visible low in the eastern horizon before dawn. It will be difficult to see unless you have a flat, level horizon.

Mercury  is lost in the twilight.

Location of Nova Centauri 2013 as seen looking north from Adelaide at 3:00 am ACDST local time.The location is marked with a square. Similar views will be seen at the equivalent local time in other Southern Hemisphere locations. Click to embiggen.

V1369 Centauri, Nova Centauri 2013 near beta Centaur is still bright enough (magnitude 4.5 as I type, and fading rapidly) to be seen faintly with the unaided eye, and very easily in binoculars. It has undergone fading and substantial brightening, making it one of the brightest nova known, and will be of interest to follow in the coming days.  Unfortunately, you have to wait until early morning for the nova to be heigh enough for a good look.

More detailed spotters charts and instructions are here.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Venus so prominent in the 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 AEDST, Western sky at 10 pmAEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.


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