The Geminids-2017

   A few hours after sunset local time, on Wednesday December 13th, look toward the west for ‘shooting stars’, or meteors coming from the area around the constellation the Gemini Twins. These are the annual Geminid Meteor Shower – one of the best meteor showers each year, and at times rivaling the August Perseid Meteor Shower. The calculated peak time for the meteors is December 14th at 7 UT (2 am CST), but this does not mean that is the only time to view them. The Geminid Meteor Shower is named for the constellation that the meteors radiate outward from. This is the same for all meteor showers, and the ‘spot’ in the sky is known as the radiant. The Geminid radiant is just above the ‘twin’ star Castor, and under ideal viewing conditions an average of about 70 meteors per hour could possibly be seen. This year without the interference of moonlight will increase the chances of seeing the meteors.
   Meteor showers result from the Earth’s orbital path intersecting areas of comet debris. Comets, as they orbit the Sun, leave behind pieces of their icy, dirty, selves. If these debris clouds happen to be along the Earth’s orbital path then the Earth will regularly pass through the comet debris cloud. As this happens the small comet pieces hit our outer atmosphere and vaporize from the friction generated heat. We then see these as the shooting stars that make up meteor showers.
   There are, however, two exceptions to this. The January Quadrantid Meteors and the Geminids each come from their own respective asteroid rather than a comet. The source for the Geminids is Asteroid 3200 Phaethon

   
   
   
   

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

December Moon at Perigee


   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance from Earth), for this orbit on Monday November 4th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.025 Earth diameters (367,492 km or 222,135 miles) from the Earth. This is approximately 17 hours after full Moon making this full Moon the year’s Super Moon.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*


   On the day of the perigee Moon the 16.5-day old waning gibbous Moon is above the eastern horizon about 1 hour after sunset local time. The Moon is located just east of Orion’s club and Orion appears to be swinging his club as if it were a baseball bat toward the Moon – but missed. Strike One!!.

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Taurus Sniffs the Moon!

   Saturday evening November 2nd the 14.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon (full Moon tomorrow) will be a couple of degrees from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran is at one end of a v-shaped open star cluster, the Hyades, that makes up the face of Taurus. Because of its reddish color it has been described as the angry eye of the bull.
   Normally the Hyades are a great view with binoculars as is the Pleiades, another open star cluster that is often described as a ‘baby dipper’.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Mars – Spica Conjunction


   Starting with Wednesday November 27th and continuing for the next several days the ‘Red Planet’ Mars will pass within about 3-4o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This animated graphic is set for 5:30 am CST at 1-day intervals starting with November 27th and ending on December 3rd.
   Jupiter is several degrees further east from Mars but by this time of the morning Jupiter will have just risen.

   Those familiar with the starry sky probably have heard the mnemonic “Follow the Arc to Arcturus, then speed to Spica” as a way to use the stars forming the curved handle (the ‘Arc’) of the Big Dipper as a guide to the reddish star Arcturus and then Spica. Read a bit more about following the arc from a previous post.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

November Moon at Descending Node


   Saturday November 25th the waxing crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.
   

   On the day of the node crossing the 7.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon an hour or so after sunset local time.
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Mercury at Eastern Elongation

orbital-positions    On Friday November 24th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest eastern elongation. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows.
   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – from superior conjunction, behind the Sun, out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward through (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!

   Currently Mercury is visible over the south to southwestern horizon at sunset shining with an apparent magnitude of -0.27. About 3o above Mercury is the planet Saturn with an apparent magnitude of 0.50.

   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Not in Sagittarius

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer on Wednesday November 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundaries of the constellation of Libra the Scales.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.