Wednesday, December 24, 2014
The Sky This Week - Thursday December 25 to Thursday January 1
The First Quarter Moon is Tuesday December 29. The Moon is at perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, on the 25th.
Mercury is low in the twilight, and is visible with flat, clear horizons.
Venus is now easy to see low on the western horizon in the twilight. At civil twilight, half an hour after sunset, it is just over a hand-span above the horizon. While Venus is bright you will need a reasonably flat, clear horizon to see it.
Mars is still easily seen low in the western evening sky, setting around 11:00 pm 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. On the 25th it is visited by the crescent Moon.
Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky.
Jupiter is prominent in the morning sky, and 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 Ganymede on the 29th at around 5 am.
Jupiter enters the evening sky just after 11 pm daylight saving time, but is still best observed in the morning.
C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening in the sky much faster than expected. The comet is passing between the star Canopus and Rigel 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 about a quarter of the size of the Moon. Instructions on viewing the comet and printable finding charts can be found here. Detailed instructions for Christmas day are here.
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