Sunday, 30 November 2014

Astronomy Things to See for December 2014

Astronomy Things To See During December 2014

The winter solstice occurs on  21st December at 11:03pm

Full:                     6th   December 12:27pm
Last quarter:       14th  December 12:51pm
New:                   22nd December 1:36am
First quarter:       28th  December 6:31pm

The Lunar “X” and “V” are visible on 29th December at 12:21am. The Moon will be very close to setting but you may catch it low in West

Lunar conjunctions & occultations:
1st/2nd December - Waxing Gibbous Moon in conjunction with Uranus during the early hours of 2nd           December
3rd December  - Waxing Gibbous Moon occults Omicron Piscium during the early evening
5th/6th December - Full Moon passes through the Hyades and skims past Aldebaran
9th December - Waning Gibbous Moon occults Lambda Geminorum in the morning
11th December - Waning Gibbous Moon forms a triangle with Jupiter and Regulus. It also occults 2 stars in one day. First it occults Acubens shortly before dawn, then at 11pm it occults 6 Leonis
16th December - Waning Crescent Moon lies below Regulus in the late evening
17th December - Waning Crescent Moon lies close to Spica in the morning
19th & 20th December - Thin Waning Crescent Moon lies close to Saturn before dawn
23rd December - Thin Waxing Crescent Moon lies close to Venus soon after sunset

Planetary Observations:
Mercury – towards the end of the month you may spot Mercury low in the south-western twilight after sunset. It will be naked eye visible at mag -0.7, but is more easily seen with binoculars

Venus – makes a reappearance during the second half of this month. At mag -3.8 it will be easy to spot in the south-western twilight about an hour after sunset. On 23rd December the very thin, 1 day old Waxing Crescent Moon lies above Venus
Mars – lies in Capricornus, and remains low in the western evening sky, setting at about 7:30pm. At mag +1.0 it will be easier to spot with binoculars. On 3rd December Mars lies close to the globular cluster M75 and on 27th it is close to Iota Capricorni
Jupiter – Jupiter is rising in the East at around 9pm, and lies in between Cancer and Leo. At mag -2.2 it will be easy to spot. It lies close to the Moon on 11th & 12th of December
Saturn – begins to reappear in the morning sky by the end of the month. It lies in Libra and will rise at around 5am, and will be at mag +0.7. On 19th & 20th the Waning Crescent Moon will be close to Saturn – look in the south-east around 7am
Uranus – lies in Pisces and sets at around 1:30am. At mag +5.8 it may be just about naked eye visible from a very dark sky site, but will be easier to spot with binoculars or a small telescope. It is in conjunction with the Moon on the night of 1st/2nd December
Neptune – lies in Aquarius and sets at around 10pm. This month it is at mag +7.9 so you will need binoculars or a small telescope to spot it
3 Juno – this minor planet begins to brighten during December and by the end of the month will be binocular visible at mag 8.5.

Other Observations:
Jupiter’s Moons
– Earth has moved level with Jupiter’s equator so we can see its moons as they eclipse and occult each other. On the night of 12th/13th December between 3am  - 5am, Europa moves in front of Io, then Callisto joins them. All three moons will be within 3 arc seconds of each other. Then on 21st December Callisto’s umbral shadow is cast on Io and this will cause Io to reduce in brightness by more than a magnitude
Geminids Meteor Shower – forecast to peak around 7am on 14th December, this shower may produce up to 100 meteors per hour, and often produces slow, bright and sometimes colourful events
Ursids Meteor Shower – forecast to peak on 22nd/23rd December, this shower produces around 12 meteors per hour. Although not as prolific as the Geminids, the New Moon makes viewing this shower very favourable
Comet 2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) – this comet should become visible towards the end of the month. It is located in Lepus and should be visible around midnight, shining at mag +8. It is predicted to brighten to as much as mag +4.0 in January
Flame Nebula (NGC2024) and Horsehead Nebula (B33) – located in Orion, December is a great month for imaging these nebulae. They both lie within a degree of each other, and are very close to Alnitak, the most south-easterly star of Orion’s Belt. Both are challenging objects to look at visually. A hydrogen-beta filter will greatly help with this target, as will good transparency and no moonlight
The Constellation Taurus – in addition to the Hyades and Pleiades clusters, Taurus also contains the famous supernova remnant M1 The Crab Nebula. It also contains one other supernova remnant, 2 reflection nebulae, 5 open clusters, a spiral galaxy, a galaxy group, 3 double stars and 2 variable stars. For full details on objects found within Taurus, take a look at the December issue of Astronomy Now Magazine

NB: The above information is taken from Night Scenes 2014 by Paul L Money, Philips Stargazing 2014, Astronomy Now Magazine and various online sources. Information collated by Mary Spicer.