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The December Night Sky

The sky is not a painting, it's a movie. Stars pulse, flare, some explode as supernova, asteroids whiz by the earth, new comets appear in the sky, Aurora sets the northern skies ablaze and meteors streak through Earth's atmosphere.

 Astronomy Picture of the Day

See below Hubble site Tonight's Sky, highlights of this months night sky movie with narration below. Click on photo below.

Winter Begins

The December Solstice occurs at 5:44 am EST on December 21. The Sun reaches its southernmost celestial latitude of the year. On this day occurs the year’s shortest period of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere summer begins.

The Full Moon for December

The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon – December During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun. Courtesy: Farmers Almanac.

Lunar Phase

First Quarter Moon December 7 4:03 am EST
Full Moon December 13 7:06 pm EST
Last Quarter Moon December 20 8:56 pm EST
New Moon December 29 1:53 am EST

December Visible Lunar Highlights

UPDATING

The Planets Visibility for December

December Evening Sky - Three Planets Visible

Early December three naked-eye planets, Mars, Venus, Mercury are visible in the west southwest evening sky twilight. You will need a flat clear horizon to see Mercury and Saturn.

 

Mercury

Evening sky SW

 Mercury midmonth is at -0.2 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'08" and phase of %45.09. Mercury is located in the constellation Sagittarius.

Venus

Evening sky WSW

Venus midmonth is at -4.2 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'19" and phase of 63.32%. Venus sets at 8:10 pm.. Venus will be the brightest object in the western evening sky. Venus is in the constellation Capricornus.

Mars

 SW Sky 

Mars midmonth is at 0.8 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'06" located in the constellation Aquarius which is visible after sunset in the south southwest. Mars sets at 9:44 pm. Note: Mars and Neptune make a very close approach on the evening of December 31. The two planets will be only 69 arc-seconds apart They have not been this close than since 1305 AD! The disks of Mars and Neptune themselves are only 5.7 arc-seconds and 2.2 arc-seconds in diameter, and you will need a large amateur telescope to see them.

To see which part of Mars surface is visible at any time, check out the Mars Profiler at Sky & Telescope Magazine's web page.

JUPITER

Morning Sky SE

Jupiter midmonth is at -1.9 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'34" located in the constellation Virgo visible high in the east. Jupiter rises at 2:00 am.

A small telescope will easily reveal four of Jupiter's largest and brightest moons. Check out Sky & Telescope's Jupiter Moons Utility for other configurations. Sky and Telescope Red Spot Calculator 

SATURN

Lost in the Suns glare 

Saturn reappears in next months morning sky. 

See: Saturn's moons locations 

URANUS

Evening  to morning Sky E

Uranus midmonth is at 5.8 magnitude and diameter 00°00'.04" sets at 2:15 am in the constellation Pisces.

 A moderate-sized telescope will show it as a green-gray disk. See: Sky and Telescope location PDF. Courtesy: Sky and Telescope

NEPTUNE 

Evening  Sky S to Southwest

Neptune midmonth is at 7.9 magnitude and diameter 00°00'.02". Neptune is in the constellation Aquarius sets at 11:19 pm.. The Moon occults the planet Neptune starting at 4:06:18 pm while the Sun is still above the horizon setting at 4:41 pm. Neptune reappears at 5:25:44 pm when the sky is dark for the York area. Note: Mars and Neptune make a very close approach on the evening of December 31. The two planets will be only 69 arc-seconds apart They have not been this close than since 1305 AD! The disks of Mars and Neptune themselves are only 5.7 arc-seconds and 2.2 arc-seconds in diameter, and you will need a large amateur telescope to see them.

See: Sky and Telescope location PDF. Courtesy: Sky and Telescope

Dwarf Planets

Pluto

Evening Sky 

Pluto is located amid the stars of the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius. Pluto is at magnitude +14.2 and diameter 00°00'.00" setting at 11:16 pm..

COMETS

No Comets Brighter than 8 magnitude

  For more on current Comets and locations see: Sky & Telescope also Seiichi Yoshida web site here.

METEOR SHOWERS

November Meteors

The Geminid Meteors

The Geminids peak on December 13th. This shower is visible from Nov 30-Dec 17. Rate of 120 meteors per hour. The December 13-14th Super Moon will greatly hinder seeing the fainter meteors thus reducing the 120 rate.

The Ursid Meteors

The Ursid meteors peak on the night of December 21/22. The Moon, which rises as a waning crescent around 1 am local time, should not interfere. Under dark skies, you may see rates as high as 10 meteors per hour.

See: Listen to Meteors , American Meteor Society, Meteors Online also NASA All Sky Network

Some local links below to Heavens Above satellite information website.

Satellites Visible from York

Satellites visible from Hanover

Satellites visible from Gettysburg

Satellites visible from Lancaster

Satellites visible from Baltimore

Satellites visible from Harrisburg

Also see: Spaceflight NASA

The Sun

Real time solar wind dials are linked live to the ACE Spacecraft.

 If the dial on the left (Magnetic Field) has dipped below zero, the speed is high and the dial dynamic pressure is in the yellow/red, be alert for Aurora. Anytime the gauges are in the Red and the dial on the left, the Magnetic Field BZ has dipped to the yellow-red... Aurora will be occurring in our area. See link to solar wind gauge here: REAL TIME SOLAR WIND

See explanation of  solar wind dials below by clicking on photo of dials

   

Use your hand to find degrees

NASA Night Sky Network Planner

Free download. AstroPlanner  

Download a free starmap at: Skymaps

Make your own starmap at: Star Finder

Download a free Planetarium for your computer at: Stellarium or Hallo Northern Sky Stellarium has many extra features.

Your Sky - Fourmilab

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