Star Calendar Planets:
MOON rises as a waning crescent just above Venus at 6:AM on the 7th. Watch the pair through the day using the crescent Moon to find Venus very close by the convex side of the Moon. After having lunch, go watch Venus disappear behind the crescent, SE at about 12:40PM. Just over an hour later find a good view to the WSW and stare at the Moon again to catch Venus wink back from behind the invisible (gibbous dark part) side. Reappearance should occur at 1:50PM – but look early as that might not be precise. Binoculars are helpful, but this occultation should be visible without them. The season of New Moon nearest winter solstice gives us the darkest days of the year – contrasted by the season of the “Long-Night” Full moon – a kind of echo of summer during which it does not get dark for several days, Christmas Midnight will be like a soft Summer Noon.
MERCURY makes a fair evening appearance this month, culminating just after Christmas. Mercury will be the brightest object in the SW in evening twilight (excepting airplanes and such) and will not twinkle (or scintillate) as low stars tend to.
VENUS passes Spica on the 1st and pulls away from pursuing Mars, hides behind the Moon on the 7th (see above) then crosses into the Scales on the 11th. She then serves to draw our attention to the reappearance of Saturn sometime during the mornings approaching Christmas. We can then look forward to a stunning grouping of Venus, Saturn, a crescent Moon and Mars’ nemesis Antares on the morning of Epiphany.
SUN is noticeably a super-minority presence now; it’s down twice as long as it’s up. It stands, astronomically, in the Teapot for solstice – which is fairly near the direction of the center of the Milky Way.
MARS reaches Spica on Christmas – on which morning we will see a lay of planets, from SE to S: Saturn, Venus, Mars/Spica, Jupiter; and beyond in the SW, Regulus. The line of the ecliptic is hence easily seen!
JUPITER is nearly stationary this month and tests the extremity of Leo in barely discernable direct motion. He will go retrograde at Epiphany.
SATURN enters the morning scene near Antares sometime mid-month. With a decent view to the SE the two should be visible Christmas morning, and a definite presence by New Year’s morning; 6:30 is a good time to look.
GEMINIDS are quite reliable meteors and find very good circumstances (no moonlight) this year for a good showing. Lie down in a sleeping bag somewhere with feet toward the SE and look up. It’s a good night for catnapping.
Star Calendar Days:
1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:02/16:28 (9h26m daylight)
3-4 LQ Moonrise/set in Spring Valley at 23:44/12:29 (12h45m moonup)
7 Moon rises just above Venus, SE at 6AM, Spica and Mars above them
Moon occults Venus shortly after 12:40PM, re-emerges around 1:50PM
8 Sunrise at 7:09; latest for 2015
This week has the most (celestially) dark skies for the year
11 NM Moonrise/set in Spring Valley at 07:01/17:07 (10h 6m moonup)
13-14 Geminid meteors – in propitious circumstances!
18-19 FQ Moonrise/set I Spring Valley at 12:04/00:28 (12h24m moonup)
21 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:18/16:31 (9h13m daylight)
Solstice at 23:48, longest night of the year
22 Mars passes to left of Spica, in SSE at 6AM
Sky is lit by Sun or Moon almost continuously for the following week
23 Moon rises beneath Aldebaran, East at 5:PM
25 Oh, what a beautiful morning! (see MARS above)
FM Moonrise/set in Spring Valley at 17:14/07:04 (13h50m moonup)
28 Mercury highest in evening sky for this appearance
31 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:37 (9h16m daylight)
Moon rises beneath Jupiter just before the New Year opens, east.