2017-12-01 / Stargazing

Meteors will put on a fine show in December

For December, the full moon, the “Long Night Moon” occurs on Dec. 3. The last quarter moon is on Dec. 10. The waning crescent moon passes just north of Mars on the morning of Dec. 13, and then north of Jupiter the following morning. This is also the peak for the best meteor shower of the year.

The Geminids will begin coming out of the northeast shortly after sunset and peak at about a meteor a minute about 3-4 a.m. on the 14. The moon is new Dec. 18. First quarter moon is on Dec. 26.

Mercury and Saturn are briefly visible just after sunset during the first week of December, but are lost in sun’s glare for the rest of the month. Venus is also lost in the sun’s glare, to reappear in the dawn in early 2018. Mars and Jupiter are in the dawn sky, with closer Mars overtaking more distant Jupiter throughout the month, with the two only three degrees apart on New Year’s morning.

This fine shot of the “Eye of God” by EAAA members Chris and Gina Gomez probably anticipates what our own solar system will look like 6 billion years hence, when the evolved red giant sun passes through a similar cosmic strip tease stage. This fine shot of the “Eye of God” by EAAA members Chris and Gina Gomez probably anticipates what our own solar system will look like 6 billion years hence, when the evolved red giant sun passes through a similar cosmic strip tease stage. The square of Pegasus dominates the western sky. South of it are the watery constellations of Pisces (the fish), Capricorn (Sea Goat), Aquarius (the Water Bearer) and Cetus (the Whale). Below Aquarius is Fomalhaut, the only first magnitude star of the southern fall sky. It is the mouth of Pisces Australius, the Southern Fish. Between the foot of Aquarius and Fomalhaut is the Helix Nebula, the closest planetary nebula.

The constellation Cassiopeia makes a striking W in the northwest. She contains many nice star clusters for binocular users in her outer arm of our Milky Way, extending to the northeast now. Her daughter, Andromeda, starts with the northeast corner star of Pegasus’ Square, and goes northeast with two more bright stars in a row. It is from the middle star, beta Andromeda, that we proceed about a quarter the way to the top star in the W of Cassiopeia and look for a faint blur with the naked eye.

M-31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is the most distant object visible with the naked eye, lying about about half their distance. Their 2.5 million light years distant. appearance in November in Overhead, Andromeda’s hero, classical times was associated Perseus, rises. Perseus contains with the stormy season, when the famed eclipsing binary star frail sailing ships stayed in port. Algol, where the Arabs imagined Aldeberan is not a member of the the eye of the gorgon Medusa Hyades but is about twice as close would lie. It fades to a third its as the Hyades. Distances in normal brightness for six out of astronomy can be deceiving. every 70 hours, as a larger but Yellow Capella, a giant star the cooler orange giant covers about same temperature and color as 80 percent of the smaller, but our much smaller sun, dominates hotter and thus brighter, the overhead sky. It is part of the companion as seen from Earth. pentagon on stars making up

Look at Perseus’ feet for the Auriga, the Charioteer (think Ben famed Pleiades cluster; they lie Hur). Several nice binocular about 400 light years distant, and Messier open clusters are found in over 250 stars are members of the winter milky way here. this fine group. East of Auriga the twins, Castor

East of the seven sisters is the and Pollux, highlight the Gemini. V of stars marking the face of UWF alumni can associate the Taurus the Bull, with bright pair with Jason and the Golden orange Aldebaran as his eye. The Fleece legend, for they were the V of stars is the Hyades cluster, first two Argonauts to sign up on older than the blue Pleiades, but his crew of adventurers.

The EAAA is glad to announce that we will be hosting year around deep sky observing sessions on Saturday evenings for the public at the Big Lagoon State Park.

Our next gazes are scheduled for Dec. 9, and Jan. 6.

For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers and our local star gazes for the public, visit our website at www.eaaa.net or join us on FaceBook under

Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association. Call our sponsor,

Dr. Wayne Wooten, at Pensacola State College at (850) 484-1152 or e-mail him at wwooten@pensacolastate.edu

While the naked eye, dark adapted by several minutes away from any bright lights, is a wonderful instrument to stare up into deep space, far beyond our own Milky Way, binoculars are better for spotting specific deep sky objects.

Also notable is wonderful video exploring the sky, available from

Hubble Space Telescope website at: http://hubblesite.org/explore_ astronomy/tonights_ sky/

Download the December Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes

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