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Wednesday, December 07, 2016


The Sky This Week - Thursday December 8 to Thursday December 15

The Full Moon is Wednesday December 14. Mercury passes some bright stars and  is highest in the evening sky on the 11th.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 Geminids meteor shower peaks on the morning of the 14th.

The Full Moon is Wednesday December 14. The Moon is at perigee (closest to the Earth) on Tuesday the 13th.

Evening sky on Saturday December 10 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 21:09 ACDST (45 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 rises higher in the evening twilight and reaches its highest distance above the horizon on the 11th, after this it heads back towards the horizon. It is now easily visible above the western horizon from 30 minutes after sunset.

Mercury is close to the bright star Kaus Borealis, the "lid" of the teapot of Sagittarius on the 8th, and is near the bright star Nunki in the teapot's handle between the 12th-14th.

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 10 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 ACDST, when 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. During the week Mars moves further through the star poor regions of  Capricornius. During the week Mars passes close to  first gamma, then delta Cacriornii. Two of the brighter stars in Capricornius.

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 11 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 4:49 ACDST (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. Jupiter  eastern horizon to see it around an hour before sunrise, but it should be reasonably easy to see by the time of civil twilight half an hour before sunrise.

The northern horizon at 4:00 am ACDST as seen from Southern Australia (northern Australia is similar but Gemini and the radiant is higher in the sky) on Wednesday December 14. The Geminid radiant is marked with a starburst . Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time. (click to embiggen).

The Geminids are a fairly reliable meteor shower but this year moonlight will significantly interfere.

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 four to six 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 2016).

At 1.00 am in the morning AEDST (midnight, AEST) Castor (alpha Geminorum) is about two hand-spans above the horizon and 10 hand-spans to the right of due north. Pollux, the other twin, is less than a hand-span to the right again. The radiant is just below Pollux. Unfortunately, the Full Moon is very near the radiant, and you will have to block it out with a building or tree to keep some night vision, but even then you will see only a few of the brighter meteors as the Moonlight drowns the rest out.

However, Orion and the Hyades will be visible and bright Jupiter will be above the eastern horizon. So it will be a quite nice morning for sky watching. Keep an eye out for satellites!

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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