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What's Up...
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...

The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal
astro-experiences to look forward to.

Thurs. Dec. 1 – The thin crescent Moon will be seen low in the early evening western sky tonight, posing about the width of your fist held at arm’s length above Mercury.

Fri. Dec. 2 – Tonight the waxing crescent Moon visits another inner planet, passing just above brilliant Venus which is beginning its performance as the evening star for the festive season.

Sat. Dec. 3 – Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede will put on an interesting show in the early hours this morning. Prior to 4.02am the satellite will be hiding in Jupiter’s shadow which now extends to the west of the planet. At 4.02am the moon will come out of the shadow and will remain in bright sunlight until it disappears behind Jupiter’s banded disk at 5.24am. Neat to watch celestial mechanics in real time.

Sun. Dec. 4 – Doing its rounds, the Moon next visits Mars tonight as our satellite climbs higher into the evening sky.

Tues. Dec. 7 – This is First Quarter Moon night with the bright half slice of orange ornamenting the evening sky and checking out early Okanagan Christmas preparations.

Thurs. Dec. 9 – For those hungry for a telescope or binocular quest, the waxing gibbous Moon will appear about the width of three fingers below pale green Uranus in the evening sky.

Sun. Dec. 11 – Mercury reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun tonight, but given the low angle of the ecliptic it will still not appear far above the early evening western horizon.

Mon. Dec. 12 – There will be a pre-Christmas treat in the sky tonight as the waxing gibbous Moon occults bright Aldebaran in Taurus. The star will disappear behind the thin dark limb of the almost full Moon around 7.30pm, reappearing from behind the bright limb after 8.10pm.

Tues. Dec. 13 – This is Full Moon night with our neighbour rising over the eastern mountains in the early evening and lighting up Okanagan winter scenes through the night.

Tues. Dec. 13 - One of the main annual meteor showers, the Geminids, will streak the sky both tonight and tomorrow night. Look for 'shooting stars' to emanate from the constellation Gemini high in the eastern sky. Unfortunately the Full Moon will drown out fainter members, compromising this annual highlight.

Thurs. Dec. 15 – We can look forward to a series of comets during the next few months which will add interest to the night skies. Early this evening there may be an opportunity to spy the first visitor, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (45P for short) which will hover three moon widths to the west-northwest of globular star cluster M75, making it reasonably easy to locate. However, the comet will only be mag. 9 which is a magnitude dimmer than M75 so it will require binoculars or a telescope. Adding to the challenge will be its location low in the southwest.

Sun. Dec. 18 – Regulus in Leo, anxious to get into night sky action before its prime spring showing,  will appear to the lower left of the waning gibbous Moon in the wee hours this morning.

Tues. Dec. 20 – This is Last Quarter Moon night. For those taking advantage of later hours to wrap gifts, the reverse half lit globe will join the festivities around midnight, remaining in the sky the following morning.

Wed. Dec. 21 - How quickly time passes! The winter solstice will take place at 2.44am on this shortest day of the year. Why not plan to be at the Pen Henge standing stone array on Munson Mountain in Penticton where interested people will join members of the Okanagan Centre of RASC for a solstice gathering around 2.45 to 3pm in anticipation of marking the dramatic sunset (if it is clear) at 3.27pm. At that time the Sun's shadow will extend from the winter solstice stone to the Heel Stone.

Thurs. Dec. 22 - The good news is that there is another meteor shower peaking tonight and the waning crescent Moon should not be that much of a problem. The bad news is that the Ursids are not the brightest shower going. Nevertheless, this shower derives its name from its radiant in Ursa Minor not far from Polaris. It yields an average of about 10 meteors per hour, but surprises are part of meteor shower viewing and you can never tell.

Thurs. Dec. 22 – The waning crescent Moon rules the pre-dawn sky, and early this morning it will be just above bright Jupiter which in turn will be about double the separation from Spica in the constellation Virgo.

Tues. Dec. 27 – For those awake in the pre-dawn hours, the waning sliver of the Moon will rise just north of Saturn which is just now entering the early morning sky to begin another transit during the coming year.

Thurs. Dec. 29 – This is New Moon night, and if we are granted clear skies during this period it will be the perfect opportunity to try out that new telescope under dark sky conditions.

Sat. Dec. 31 – There is often a treat in the sky to help celebrate the coming of the New Year. This time around the planets Mars and Neptune will appear very close to each other in the evening sky, offering a classic telescope adventure.