#astronomy December Evening Sky 2019 – Astronotes

December 9, 2019 - Comment

Ah, the winter evening sky, how we love thee. The shorter daytime means even longer to stargaze; if we’re fortunate right here in Armagh we are going to get some excessive stress days resulting in crisp, clear, starry nights. So, within the evenings after your Christmas procuring has completed for the day why not give


Ah, the winter evening sky, how we love thee. The shorter daytime means even longer to stargaze; if we’re fortunate right here in Armagh we are going to get some excessive stress days resulting in crisp, clear, starry nights. So, within the evenings after your Christmas procuring has completed for the day why not give stargazing a go? And it’s not simply stars you may search for this time of yr!

In the event you resolve to gaze into the winter evening sky this December, please bear in mind to offer your eyes round 20 minutes to totally adapt to the darkish sky – initially you might not be capable of see loads, particularly for those who dwell in a city or metropolis. I’d suggest trying out this gentle air pollution map to see how gentle polluted the place you reside is; there could be a darkish web site a brief drive from you!

There are additionally particular dates this month that may be higher for stargazing as a result of impact the moon has – a full, brilliant moon makes stars and galaxies more durable to see, so bear that in thoughts. The chart beneath from Go Stargazing outlines the affect the moon may have.

The center of the month isn’t wanting too good for clear, darkish nights. Credit score: Go Stargazing

The Chilly Moon

Will you be searching for the Chilly Moon this month? Credit score: NASA

The total moon in December shall be on the 12th; that is referred to as The Chilly Moon. Aptly named, as December is about to be notably Baltic this yr (excuse me the Northern Irish colloquialism, if you’ll). This was not at all times its title, as it’s also generally known as the Moon earlier than Yuletide; Yuletide being the traditional celebration across the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice (21st December) marks the “shortest” day of the yr as North Pole has its most tilt away from the solar, that means the fewest hours of daylight. The Winter Solstice has held significance throughout humanity for millennia courting again to Neolithic cultures; astronomical occasions have been used to plan harvesting crops, mating animals and different duties. The Winter Solstice marked the “demise and rebirth” of the solar and was celebrated by consuming and consuming copious quantities with family and friends. In Northern Europe, Pagans celebrated this time of yr and referred to as it “Yuletide”.

Illustration of an historic Nordic Yuletide pageant (Die Gartenlaube, 1880) Credit score: WikiCommons

The Milky Means

On the much less moonlit nights of the month – why not spend some time outdoors and let your eyes modify sufficient to witness our superb Milky Means! The chilly, crisp, lengthy nights of December make it a good time to pay slightly extra consideration to our little nook of the Universe; our dwelling galaxy.

Relying on the place you’re primarily based, you’ll need to permit time on your eyes to regulate to the darkish (often 20 minutes). However will probably be well worth the wait – you will notice a milky band working throughout our evening sky. That is our galaxy, aspect on, from the within! Our galaxy is dwelling to between 200 and 400 billion stars, and not less than 100 billion planets. The house between the celebs is full of fuel and mud, which supplies it its milky look. On the centre, we’re assured there lurks a supermassive black gap four million occasions the mass of the solar – however don’t fear! It’s 26,000 light-years from our little, itty bitty photo voltaic system.

Our galaxy seen from Earth. “Loch Trool, Milky Means, June 2019” by Andrew Ferguson

Planets

There are just a few alternatives in December to do some planet recognizing; particularly with Saturn and Venus.

Saturn is low on the horizon this time of yr – seen southwest on the horizon at an elevation of 13 levels (lookout for the teapot of Sagittarius to level you in the fitting space). With a small telescope or binoculars you’ll be capable of observe not solely Saturn’s rings, however its brightest moon; Titan. In case you missed the information earlier this yr – Saturn now has 82 moons! However most of them aren’t observable from Earth.

Outmatched: At 3200miles throughout Titan simply intimidates Saturn’s different 72mile-wide moon throughout the icy rings, Epimetheus.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Area Science Institute

Additionally of word: within the earlier portion of the month of December you’ll be capable of catch a glimpse of Venus beneath Saturn (simply after sundown).

Picture Credit score: Stellarium

The Geminid Meteor Bathe

On the nights of December 14th & 15th (if good and clear) we may have the chance to watch the Geminid Meteor Bathe. The moon shall be in its first quarter and so won’t intervene with its gentle that means we will actually admire this bathe. Simply after 11pm, the Geminid Meteor Bathe shall be excessive within the sky within the south. Look out for potential brilliant flashes and near-fireballs! The meteors you may observe come from asteroid 3200 Phaethon – effectively price a glance out if clear.

The Geminid Meteor Bathe. Credit: NASA/JPL

I hope this information has impressed you to offer stargazing a go this December. It’s undoubtedly a colder time of yr to get into stargazing, so bear in mind to wrap up heat! If any of you’re fortunate sufficient to get a telescope for Christmas, bear in mind to look out for Saturn’s rings! And keep tuned for our January Evening Sky piece – there’s lots extra universe to see from our humble nook of the cosmos.



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