Star Calendar – December 2016

Star Calendar

December 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon begins the month by visiting some planets in heliocentric order, then occults Aldebaran again before making its long-night excursion just after perigee. Solstice evening and Christmas eve will be absent the Moon – hence very dark. Then the last two Classical (visible to naked eye) planets will be visited, again in order.

Mercury is well south of the ecliptic, but the evening line steepens a bit too as solstice approaches and he may be spied if sought for – especially in the second week of this month. After this he suddenly darts out of the evening scene, scoots past the Sun on the 28th and shoots for a morning appearance with Saturn in early January.

Venus shines her brightest for the year this month – commonly mistaken as an airplane approaching with landing lights ablaze, she seems to leap upwards towards Mars – but she will retreat in January and the two shan’t meet ‘til October.

Sun is getting nearer as perihelion approaches in January and crosses the meridian at its average interval of 24 hours (which it does four times each year) on the 24th. On the 21st He rises and sets most-south-of east and west, makes his lowest passage across the southern meridian and spends the least time above the horizon. Due to the oddities arising from mean-time-keeping, earliest sunset occurs before solstice and latest sunrise occurs in January.

Mars continues to appear higher each evening even though the Sun is closing the gap between the two. This is again because the ecliptic is steepening against the horizon as we approach and pass solstice.

Jupiter continues to dominate the morning scene, standing prominently bright in the South above Spica.

Saturn quietly slips past the Sun on the 10th and should come into view some morning in January – still proximate to Antares. Remember that Saturn is lolling around near the winter solstice and is just always low these several years. Next December the Sun and Saturn will cross the solstice line together.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:03/16:28 (9h25m daylight)

    Young Moon stands above evasive Mercury, SW at 5:PM

3 Moon stands above dazzling Venus, SW in evening

4-5 Moon stands beside Mars, SSW in evening

7 Sun sets earliest for the year, 16:27 in Spring Valley

10 Saturn passes behind Sun

11 Mercury achieves greatest angular distance from Sun (21 degrees)

12-13 Moon perigee tonight

            Moon occults Aldebaran around 11:10PM+ until 12:10AMish

13-14 Full Long Nights Moon at 19:06; rise/set 16:41/7:30 (14h49m moonlight)

18 Moon approaches Regulus in SW before dawn

19 Mercury Stationary, to retrograde motion

21 Winter solstice at 5:44, least daylight; 7:18/16:31 (9h13m)

22 Ursid meteors peak late evening hours, face NNE as “Big Dipper” swings up

22-23 Moon, Jupiter and Spica appear SE in morning twilight

24 Equation of time is zero for Time Zone central meridia

25 Moon is apogee (at far point) for Christmas

26 Moon above evasive Antares in SE before dawn

27 Tired old Moon above (invisible) Saturn before dawn

28 Mercury at inferior conjunction, passes the nearside of the Sun

29 New Moon

31 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:38 (9h17m)

Star Calendar – December 2014

Star Calendar

December 2014

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon crosses the line of Vernal Equinox while setting at around midnight as December begins, then is highest for the month on the 6th, rising (just Full) above Orion around 6:PM. On the 15th Moon crosses the Autumnal Equinox while rising around midnight and on the 21st finds its lowest position with the Sun.

Mercury will cross behind the Sun on the 8th and run ahead for an evening appearance in mediocre circumstances following Christmas.

Venus should begin to be visible in evening twilight around the middle of the month, or by around Christmas evening, in the SW. Mercury will then follow, vincinaly joining her by Jan.12th.

Sun was poised for a barrage of heavy solar weather as a persistent large spotty region wheeled around twice; but it seems to have held its breath just when aimed our way. It seems our goose is not cooked quite yet. The Sun is now breaking out in numerous spots – finally. The peak of this solar cycle has been remarkably late and mild thus far.

Mars was occulted by the Moon during its opposition 7 years ago on Christmas Eve. The complex relationship of planetary rhythms brings about another lunar/martian encounter on Christmas Eve – but not an occultation and not in syzygy. Just enjoy the pair in the SW as they follow the Sun down that evening; 5-7:30 PM. Mars is only mag. +1.1 now, similar in brightness to Deneb, but reddish.

Jupiter is as near as it will get to Regulus and is now coming straight toward us, brightening and greatly outshining Regulus. The pair will be rising at 9:PM by Christmas. Oddly that “straight toward” (or away) motion is called “stationary”; because it stops moving against the background stars. Retrograde (backward) motion begins the 9th and will accelerate as 2015 opens, reaching Cancer by February.

Saturn has fallen behind the Sun enough to be visible in the morning, not quite as bright as higher Arcturus. Looking in the SE on the 19th between 6: and 6:30 AM will enjoy the aid of a proximate meniscus Moon. Continue reading