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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Look At The Sky: December

December is not an exciting time for sky watching.  Only one planet is well visible and most of the meteor showers are competing with a bright moon.

According to the Arkansas Sky Observer site:

"Jupiter -  The largest of all planets will be our dominant planet this month and reaches opposition in February 2015, shining very bright yellow overhead about 4 a.m. local time and rises about 10 p.m..  This coming apparition is one of the best apparitions for Jupiter to be telescopically studies in many years, with the planet very high overhead nearly six hours of the night for northern observers.  Jupiter will be very favorably placed for viewing all evening and will set about dawn at mid-month.

December 13-14 - GEMINID meteors - with the moon at last quarter phase this year, the faithfully rich Geminid Meteors should present an fair show in December since the moon will rise about midnight, giving dark skies for early evening observations; for those who stay up late and into the early morning hour to view some of the brighter fireballs may reward your efforts.   The Geminid shower is normally THE meteor shower for December, producing  as many as 60 very white meteors in dark skies...only about 3 % of these meteors leave the characteristic "train" or trail, even when appearing as fireballs;  this is a very unusual meteor shower in that it does NOT originate from debris of a spent comet, but rather from the MINOR PLANET "Icarus," a very peculiar asteroid that swings by the earth very closely during some passes.  The radiant will rise nearly due EAST at dark and will be conveniently located (for northern hemisphere observers) about midnight; wait until about 10 p.m. this year to view this shower.  ON THE SAME NIGHT is a very minor and newer meteor shower, the "LEO-MINORIDS", from Leo Minor; it will rise due east also, but about 8 p.m. and be overhead around 2 a.m.  This was discovered by casual stargazers in 1971!

December 16 - PISCID  meteors - Found in 1973, about 8 meteors per hour were seen coming from the constellation of Pisces near a distinct radiant at 01h 42m, +09 degrees; few have been seen since, but this year's dark skies with only a crescent moon in the sky, provides an good year for skywatchers to "rediscover" this important meteor stream.

December 22 - URSID METEORS - This meteor shower, coming from within the "Little Dipper" will never rise nor set and you can watch it all night; however, best observations would be about 11 p.m. local time and into the early morning hours.  This is an excellent year for the Ursid meteors since the moon will be absent from the sky nearly all night.   The meteoroids in this group have origins with the famous Comet Tuttle, and leave many spectacular wakes and smoky trails in their wakes.  Up to 20 meteors per hour under dark skies can be see to any observer looking nearly due north and "up" a bit!"

At least for TN, the space station will be coming around a few times.  If you'd like to see the space station as it passes overhead, go to this site:

Enter your location and it will take you to a page showing when and where to look.

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