Monday, December 24, 2012

The Sky This Week - Thursday December 27 to Thursday January 3

The Full Moon is Friday December 28. Earth is at perihelion on January 2. Jupiter is prominent in the evening sky. In the morning skies Venus is low on the horizon. Saturn is visible high in the morning sky.

Morning sky on Sunday December 30 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:15 am local daylight saving time in South Australia. Saturn and Venus are drawing apart, Mercury is just on the horizon. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

The Full Moon is Friday December 28. Earth is at perihelion (the closest point to the Sun in Earth's orbit) on January 2.

Bright white Venus is now quite low above the eastern horizon,  and hard to see from cluttered horizons. Venus looks like a waxing Moon when seen through even a small telescope. Venus is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

Saturn is now readily visible above the eastern horizon before dawn. Saturn climbs higher in the morning sky, becoming easier to see in the morning sky.  In the constellation of Libra, it continues to move away from Venus during the week.

Mercury  is low in the morning sky, but is very difficult to see in the twilight below Venus. You will need a flat, obscured horizon (like the ocean) to see it. By the end of the week it is lost in the twilight.

Evening sky looking North as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 pm local daylight time on Sunday December 30. The inset shows Jupiter's Moons at this time. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time.  Click to embiggen.

Mars is lost in the twilight, and will return in the morning skies next year.

Jupiter is visible all night long now. Despite opposition having just passed on the December the 3rd Jupiter is prominent in the north-eastern early evening sky, being quite visible in the twilight. Jupiter is below the Hyades, near the red star Aldebaran. Jupiter remains near Aldebaran during the week, making it look as if the Bull has two eyes.

Jupiter, Aldebaran and the white star Rigel in Orion form a long line in the sky. With the Pleiades cluster and the constellation of Orion close by, this is a beautiful sight. 

Jupiter is easily seen in the late evening sky, rising around 6:00 pm local daylight saving time and is highest in the north by 11:00 pm. Now is a perfect time to observe Jupiter with a telescope of any size in the evening. Jupiters' Moons are easily seen in binoculars, and can be followed from night to night changing position.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.
Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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