Archive for December, 2006

December 2006

Friday, December 1st, 2006

Winter Solstice

The Season of Winter starts on the Winter Solstice which occurs on December 21th (PST).

Lunar Events

The Full Moon of December occurs on December 4th.  It is named the "Cold Moon" and is also known by the names the "Long Night Moon" or the "Moon Before Yule."

The New Moon for December will occur on Wednesday, December 20th. This will make the weekends of December 16th-17th and December 23rd-24th as good weekends for dark sky viewing.

The Moon Occults Pleiades TWICE!

On December 3rd, starting around 5:40 pm, the near full moon will occult the star cluster Pleiades, also known as M45, finishing around 8:00 pm.

Then again, on December 31st, starting around 4:30 am, the waxing gibbous moon will occult the Pleiades. The December 31st occultation finishes about an hour and a half after moonset, around 6:45 am. The horizontal line which rises up at the end of the animation represents the horizon as the moon and Pleiades sets.

The Moon rises with Spica!

December 15, 2006 - Moon & Spica

Also this month, on December 15th around 3:30am, the waning crescent moon will rise in conjunction with the star Spica and being within 1°15′ of each other.

Celestial Events

Mercury, Mars and Jupiter in Triple Planetary Conjunction

Over a four day period from December 9th to December 12th a triple planetary conjunction will occur in the morning between the planets Mercury, Mars and Jupiter.

December 9th Mercury, Mars and Jupiter will be within 1°30′ of each other.
December 10th Mercury and Jupiter will be within a mere 0°10′ of each other, while Mars will be only 1° away from the pair.
December 11th Jupiter and Mars will be within 0°50′ of each other, while Mercury will be about 1°30′ of the pair.
December 12th Jupiter and Mars are still within 1° of each other.


This Quicktime Movie shows the positions of Mercury, Mars and Jupiter on the mornings from December 6th to December 16th before sunrise. Each frame in the animation represent one sidereal day.

Mercury

Mercury is the Morning Star this month and is visible until just before Christmas when in disappears into the glare of the sunrise.  Mercury begins December in the constellation Libra (The Balance). On December 9th, Mercury moves into the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpion), until December 13th, when it moves into the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer).  Finally, on December 25th, under the glare of sunrise, Mercury moves into the constellation Sagittarius (The Archer).

Dec 9, 2006 - Mercury, Mars & Jupiter December 9th, 2006 - Mercury, Mars and Jupiter will be within 1°30′ of each other, in a triple planetary conjunction.

Venus

Venus is the Evening Star all month rising higher at sunset as the month progresses. At the beginning of December Venus is about 8° from the sun, setting about 30 minutes after sunset.

By New Years Eve, December 31st, Venus is about 15° from the sun, setting an hour after sunset. December 31, 2006 - Venus

Venus starts December in the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer), until December 8th, when it moves into the constellation Sagittarius (The Archer), where it will spend the rest of the month.

Mars

Mars is observable in the morning hours before sunrise. As December progresses it will climb higher in the sky before sunrise. Mars begins December in the constellation Libra (The Balance).  On December 7th, Mars moves into the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpion) until December 16th when it moves into the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer) where it will spend the rest of the month.

Jupiter

Jupiter ends its long visit to the constellation Libra (The Balance) on December 5th (where its been since November 2005), when it moves into the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpian), but only remains in Scorpius for a mere 23 days! On December 28th, Jupiter end the year by moving into the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer).

Jupiter is visible in the evening hours rising higher in the sky as the month continues.

December 10, 2006 - Mercury, Mars & Jupiter

December 10th, 2006 - Mercury and Jupiter will be in conjunction, and will be within a mere 0°10′ of each other, while Mars will be only 1° away from the pair. This conjunction can be viewed before sunrise in the east, in the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpian).

Saturn

Saturn is located in the constellation Leo (The Lion) until the year 2009. Saturn is observable from late evening, rising around 11:30 pm, until morning at the beginning of December. By the end of the month Saturn rises around 9:30 pm and is observable for the rest of the night.

On December 5th, Saturn starts a retrograde motion.

To the left is a quicktime movie showing the path of Saturn in the constellation Leo (The Lion), between November 1st to December 31st, 2006. Each frame of the movie represents a sidereal day.

Note the moons of Saturn orbiting Saturn during the animation. These celestial objects or observable with a telescope.

On December 10th, Saturn will be in conjunction with the waning, gibbous moon.

Uranus

Uranus is in the constellation Aquarius (The Water Bearer) until the year 2009. In the month of December Uranus is between 0°30′ to 1° from the star Lambda Aquarii.

Uranus is observable from evening until mid night, setting around 12:30 pm at the beginning of December. By the end of the month, Uranus is visible from evening until it sets around 10:30 pm.

December 15, 2006 - Uranus & Neptune

December 15th, 2006 - This shows the relative positions of Uranus and Neptune for the month of December.

Neptune

Neptune can be located in the constellation Capricornus (The Sea Goat) until the year 2010. In the month of December Neptune is within 1°15′ from the star Iota Capricorni.

Pluto

Pluto is found in the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer) until December 4th when it crosses into the constellation Sagittarius (The Archer). Pluto will remain in Sagittarius until the year 2023! Unfortunately, Pluto is unobservable in December due to its proximity to the glare of the sun.


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