Monthly summary of stellar events - December Skies -Rick Wagner
03 Dec - very thin crescent Moon (about 20hrs before new) just above SErn horizon shortly before sunrise.
03 Dec – Venus at its greatest illuminated extent and brightest -4.9 mag
03 Dec – Comet Leonard (perhaps mag 6.5?) passes by M3 (mag 6.3) for a great photo opportunity. Watch Leonard through the month as it moves from Canes Venatici, races across Bootes and Serpens Caput to disappear in the morning twilight.
04 Dec – New Moon 02:43EST
05 Dec – all month Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter form a lovely line along the ecliptic. This evening a thin crescent Moon joins them below and right of Venus just after sunset.
06 Dec - crescent Moon below Venus in the SW after sunset
07 Dec – crescent Moon below Saturn in the SW after sunset
08 Dec – crescent Moon below Jupiter in the SW after sunset
08 Dec - Algol at minimum for about 2 hours around 00:20EST
09 Dec – nearly first quarter Moon left of Jupiter in the SSW after sunset
10 Dec - double shadow transit on Jupiter: the shadow of Europa moves onto the SW edge of Jupiter’s disk as Callisto’s shadow moves off the SE limb; meanwhile Europa itself is transiting across the disk. 17:15EST
10 Dec - Algol at minimum for about 2 hours around 21:10EST
10 Dec – minor planet (44) Nysa at opposition (mag 9.1)
14 Dec - Geminid meteor shower peaks in the early morning - best observing will be after the Moon sets at about 3AM
15 Dec – Comet Leonard reappears in the evening sky shortly after sunset but it will stay low for the rest of the month, setting in twilight
18 Dec - Full Moon - near solstice so it is at its highest in the sky, also the smallest full moon of the year
18 Dec – will the James Webb Space Telescope finally launch!?
21 Dec – winter solstice – astronomical winter begins 10:59EST
22 Dec – Ursid meteor shower peaks, best viewing before dawn; very minor shower badly affected by a gibbous Moon
27 Dec – Last Quarter Moon
29 Dec – Mercury (mag -0.7) is 4.5º to the lower left of brilliant Venus (mag -4.4) in the SW sky shortly after sunset. Binoculars may help to see it. Pluto is less than 1º to Mercury’s upper left but at mag 14.4 you won’t see it in the twilight.
30 Dec - Mercury is 5.3º left of Venus in the SW sky shortly after sunset.
31 Dec – Mars and a thin crescent Moon form a triangle with Antares in the SE sky shortly before sunrise. Compare the colour of Mars and Antares which means ‘rival of Mars’ (Ares is the Greek Mars.)