Christmas 2013

Earth globe Christmas ornament on tree   My posts are read from many countries, different time zones, opposite hemispheres, and hopefully even from orbit. So whatever your holiday of preference, or when it is celebrated, at this time I want to say happy holidays to all and a cosmic sized thank you for your support and especially for following my posts.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   The morning skies on 25 December will present a neat panorama stretching from west to east including planets, bright stars, and the last quarter Moon. In the west is Jupiter forming a triangle shape with the ‘twin stars’ of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Above the southern horizon is Regulus in Leo the Lion. Further east is the last quarter Moon a few degrees from the planet Mars. Close to Mars is the 2nd magnitude star Porrima in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Further to the east and closer to the horizon is the planet Saturn. Can you picture a line connecting all of these planets, stars, and the Moon? If so you are picturing the ecliptic – the Earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere.

ecliptic-ani   Most know of the ecliptic as the Sun’s apparent eastward path against the background of stars. In fact the ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun. The 8 planets and our Moon are all located within a few degrees of the ecliptic while Small Solar System Bodies like comets, and many of the Dwarf Planets follow orbits around the Sun that are inclined away from the ecliptic by more degrees than the planets and our Moon.

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

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