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.
Star Calendar Days:
1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:02/16:28 EST (9h26m daylight)
Moon crosses just above Uranus, SE at 6:PM (7×50 binoculars or better)
5-6 Full Long Night Moon at 7:27 AM, passes Aldebaran
8 Mercury crosses farside of Sun
Jupiter draws nearest Regulus for this approach
Earliest sunset in Spring Valley, at 16:27
9 Jupiter stationary to retrograde
11 Moon amidst Jupiter and Regulus, east after 10PM
12 Moon rises below Regulus and Jupiter, after 11PM
13-14 Geminid meteors, from east before moon rises each night
17 Moon to left of Spica, SE at 6:AM
19 Moon above Saturn, SE at 6:30AM
21 Solstice at 6:03PM, longest night for year
Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:18/16:31 (9h13m daylight)
23 Moon above Venus, SW 5:15-5:30PM
25 Moon to right of Mars, SW at 6:PM
29 Moon occults Uranus as they set, just after midnight
31 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:37 (9h16m daylight)
Moon crosses from Aries; stands below Taurus at midnight, WSW