K-Tec

December 2018 Observing Guide

3 weeks 16 hours ago - 3 weeks 16 hours ago #107424 by Neill
OBSERVING GUIDE
(Please note all times are UT and are based on an observing location of Belfast and covers the month of December)


The Sun

At the start of the month, the Sun rises at 08:25 and sets at 16:00. By month's end, it rises at 08:50 and sets at 16:05.

The Planets

Conjunctions

7th pm Mars and Neptune

21st am Mercury and Jupiter

Regular Stuff

Mercury is at greatest western elongation on the 15th and is visible in the dawn sky during the month. It rises at 07:30 and brightens from mag +2.5 to mag -0.4 during the month. It moves from Libra to Ophiuchus during the month and lies close to Jupiter on the morning of the 21st (see above).

Venus is a morning object this month. It is moving from Virgo to Libra during the month. It rises at 04:30 and fades from mag -4.5 to mag -4.4 during the month.

Mars is at eastern quadrature on the 3rd and is visible in the evening sky during the month. It sets at 23:35 and fades from mag +0.0 to mag +0.5 during the month. It moves from Aquarius to Pisces during the month. It lies close to Neptune on the evening of the 7th (see above).

Jupiter reappears as a morning object this month in Ophiuchus. By month’s end, it rises at 06:40 and is mag -1.6.

Saturn is visible as an evening object in Sagittarius at the start of the month when it sets at 17:50 and is mag +0.5. By the end of the month, it has moved too close to the sun and is no longer visible.

Uranus is an evening object in Aries during the month. At the start of the month, it sets at 04:30. By month’s end it sets at 02:30. It fades from mag +5.7 to mag +5.8 during the month and lies near to Omicron (ο) Piscium, mag +4.2.

Neptune is at eastern quadrature on the 5th and is an evening object in Aquarius. At the start of the month, it sets at 23:55. By month’s end, it sets at 22:00. It maintains its brightness at mag +7.9 during the month. It lies between Phi (φ) Aquarii, mag +4.2 and Lambda (λ) Aquarii, mag +3.7.

The Moon

The new moon is on the 7th (07:20) with the first quarter moon on the 15th (11:49). The full moon is on the 22nd (17:49) with the last quarter moon on the 29th (09:34).

Regular Stuff

3rd am the 18% waning crescent lies N of Spica (Alpha (α) Virginis, mag +1.0) and NW of Venus at 05:00.

4th am the 10% waning crescent lies E of Venus at 05:00.

6th am the 1% waning crescent lies SE of Mercury at 07:00.

8th pm the 2% waxing crescent lies W of Saturn at 16:00.

9th pm the 6% waxing crescent lies NE of Saturn at 17:00.

14th pm the 44% waxing crescent lies SE of Neptune and SW of Mars at 18:00.

15th pm the 52% waxing gibbous lies E of Mars at 18:00.

17th pm the 72% waxing gibbous lies SW of Uranus at 18:00.

18th pm the 81% waxing gibbous lies SE of Uranus at 18:00.

20th pm the 95% waxing gibbous lies S of M45 – The Pleiades and NW of Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri, mag +0.9) at 18:00.

21st pm the 99% waxing gibbous lies E of Aldebaran (Alpha (α) Tauri, mag +0.9) at 18:00.

26th pm the 77% waning gibbous lies SE of Regulus (Alpha (α) Leonis, mag +1.4) at 22:00.

31st am the 32% waning crescent lies E of Spica (Alpha (α) Virginis, mag +1.0) at 03:00.

Jan 1st am the 22% waning crescent lies NW of Venus at 05:00.

Meteors

The best time to observe meteor showers is when the moon is below the horizon; otherwise its bright glare limits the number you will see especially the fainter ones. Below is a guide to this month's showers.

The Geminids peak during daylight hours on the 14th with a ZHR of 120. There will be a good chance to observe this shower on both the nights of the 13th and 14th after the waxing crescent moon in Aquarius has set at 22:10 and 23:20 respectively. The radiant is visible from 19:00 on both nights.

There may be additional minor showers this month, details of which can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section.

Asteroids

Asteroid (433) Eros is at opposition on the evening of the 7th and is mag +9.6. It can be found in Camelopardalis and is visible all night on the 7th.

Asteroid (40) Harmonia is at opposition on the evening of the 8th and is mag +9.4. It can be found in Taurus and is visible from 18:00 on the 8th.

Asteroid (6) Hebe is at opposition on the morning of the 28th and is mag +8.4. It can be found in Monoceros near the boundary with Orion and is visible from 20:00 on the 27th.

Finder charts and further information about other fainter asteroids can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section.

Comets

Comet 46P/Wirtanen is predicted to peak at mag +3 this month. Peak brightness should occur at perihelion on the 12th with its closest pass by earth is on the 16th. It is currently mag +7. It will travel through Cetus, Eridanus, back into Cetus, then Taurus, Perseus and Auriga before ending the month in Lynx. It will be visible from 18:00 up to when it enters Perseus, after that it will be visible all night.

It passes by several celestial objects during the month:

4th pm Al Sadr Al Ketus (Pi (π) Ceti, mag +4.2). 6th pm Azha (Eta (η) Eridani, mag +3.9). 10th pm Menkar (Alpha (α) Ceti, mag +2.5). 12th pm Omicron (ο) and Xi (ξ) Tauri, mag +3.6 and +3.7 respectively. 16th pm M45 – The Pleiades. 17th pm Psi (ψ) Tauri, mag +5.2. 22nd pm Almaaz (Epsilon (ε) Aurigae, mag +3.0). 23rd pm Capella (Alpha (α) Aurigae, mag +0.1).

The diffuse nature of the comet will mean it will appear dimmer than its indicated brightness. It should hopefully still be visible to the naked eye.

Comet 38P/Stephan-Oterma is predicted to remain at mag +9/+10 until January. It is currently mag +9 and moves from Cancer to Lynx during the month. It is visible from 21:00 at the start of the month. By mid-month, it is visible from 19:00 and by month’s end it is visible all night.

Finder charts and further information about the above and other fainter comets can be found in the below Information Sources and Links Section. Any of the above estimates are based on current information at the time of writing the guide and can be wrong - “Comets are like cats; they have tails, and they do precisely what they want”, David H Levy.

Deep Sky

On the deep sky front this month, galaxies M81 and M82 can be observed in Ursa Major. In Andromeda, M31 - The Andromeda galaxy can be observed along with its satellite galaxies M32 and M110. In Perseus, there is the open cluster M34 and the excellent Double Cluster - NGC 869 and 884. In Triangulum, there is the galaxy M33. In Auriga there are three open clusters M36, M37 and M38 and also M35 in Gemini. Taurus has the excellent Pleiades - M45, the Hyades and also M1 - The Crab Nebula. Orion returns to our skies with M42 - The Great Orion Nebula and also Cancer with M44 - The Beehive Cluster.

General Notes

Always keep an eye out for Aurorae. The winter solstice is on the 21st which sees the shortest day of the year and after this date the nights shorten and the days lengthen. This also sees the beginning of winter. Other interesting naked eye phenomena to look out for include the Zodiacal Light and the Gegenschein. Both are caused by sunlight reflecting off dust particles which are present in the solar system.

The Zodiacal Light can be seen in the West after evening twilight has disappeared or in the East before the morning twilight. The best time of year to see the phenomenon is late-Feb to early-April in the evening sky and September/October in the morning sky - it's then that the ecliptic, along which the cone of the zodiacal light lies, is steepest in our skies. The Gegenschein can be seen in the area of the sky opposite the sun. To view either, you must get yourself to a very dark site to cut out the light pollution. When trying to observe either of these phenomena, it is best to do so when the moon is below the horizon. A new appendix has been added explaining some of the more technical terms used in the guide.

Clear Skies

Neill McKeown

Appendix

The ZHR or Zenithal Hourly Rate is the number of meteors an observer would see in one hour under a clear, dark sky with a limiting apparent magnitude of 6.5 and if the radiant of the shower were in the zenith. The rate that can effectively be seen is nearly always lower and decreases as the radiant is closer to the horizon. The Zenith is the overhead point in the sky.

The radiant is the point in the sky, from which (to a planetary observer) meteors appear to originate, i.e. the Perseids, for example, are meteors which appear to come from a point within the constellation of Perseus. When the radiant is quoted as "circumpolar", it is never below the horizon and visible all night, otherwise the times quoted are when the constellation in which the radiant lies rises above the horizon in the East.

A fireball is defined by the International Astronomical Union as a meteor brighter than any of the planets, i.e. magnitude -4 or brighter. The International Meteor Organisation alternatively defines it as a meteor which would have a magnitude of -3 or brighter at the zenith.

The full moon’s width when viewed from the Earth is 30 arc minutes or ½ a degree. This should give an idea for judging any distances quoted in the guide.

An asterism is a collection of stars seen in Earth's sky which form simple patterns which are easy to identify, i.e. the Big Dipper. They can be formed from stars within the same constellation or by stars from more than one constellation. Like the constellations, they are a line of sight phenomenon and the stars whilst visible in the same general direction, are not physically related and are often at significantly different distances from Earth.

A conjunction is when two objects appear to be close to each other in the sky according to the perspective of the observer.

Mag is short for magnitude which is the measure of an object's brightness. The smaller the number, the brighter the object. The brightest object in the sky is the Sun at mag -26, the full moon is mag -12 and Venus the brightest planet is mag -4. The brightest stars are mag -1. If there is a 1 mag difference between two objects - there is a difference in brightness of a factor of 2.5 between the two objects. For example the full moon is eight magnitudes brighter than Venus on average which means it is 1,526 times brighter than Venus. Objects down to mag +6 can be seen with the naked eye under very dark skies.

Local time is always quoted in the guide and this means for November - February - universal time (UT)/GMT is used and for April to September - daylight savings time (DST, = GMT+1). For the months of March and October when the clocks go forward/back respectively, both times will be used and attention should be paid to any times at the end of these months for that change.

Deep Sky Objects such as galaxies, nebulae and star clusters are classified in catalogues such as the Messier catalogue for objects like M44 - M for Messier. Another example of a catalogue would the New General catalogue whose objects have the prefix NGC. There are links for websites to both catalogues in the section above.

Perihelion is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet where it is at the nearest point in its orbit to the sun. It is the opposite of Aphelion, which is when the object is at the farthest point in its orbit from the sun. For the earth, the comparative terms used are perigee and apogee and for the moon, pericynthion and apocynthion are sometimes used.



The Planets

From Earth - Mercury and Venus are the inner planets in the solar system and Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are the outer planets. Below is a short guide as to how both the inner and outer planets move around the sun. The above pictorial guide should hopefully help in this.

The Inner Planets

These are best seen when at Greatest Eastern/Western elongation and are not visible when at either Inferior/Superior conjunction. Greatest Eastern elongation is when the inner planet is at its furthest point east from the sun as seen from Earth and visible in the evening sky in the West after sunset, Western elongation is when it's at its furthest point west from the sun as seen from Earth and visible in the morning sky in the East before sunrise. Inferior conjunction occurs when the inner planet is between the Sun and the Earth. Superior conjunction occurs when the inner planet is on the other side of the Sun as seen from Earth.

From our Northerly latitudes, the ecliptic, along which the planets move, lies at a very shallow angle to the horizon after sunset in the autumn and before sunrise in the spring. This means that any of the planets will be difficult to see when fairly close to the Sun in the evening sky in the autumn or in the morning sky in the spring. In particular, Mercury is more or less invisible from here when at Eastern elongation in the autumn or at Western elongation in the spring, because it lies so close to the horizon and is never above the horizon except in daylight or bright twilight.

The normal cycle for an inner planet is Superior Conjunction - Greatest Eastern Elongation - Inferior Conjunction - Greatest Western Elongation - Superior Conjunction. After superior conjunction, the planet moves away from the Sun as seen from Earth and becomes visible in the evening sky after a period of time. It then moves past the point of Greatest Eastern Elongation and moves back towards the Sun as seen from Earth until a point when it is not visible and at Inferior Conjunction. After this the planet appears in the morning sky for a time, before again slipping into the Sun's glare as seen from Earth. The duration of this cycle will depend on the planet's closeness to the Sun, i.e. Mercury completes the above cycle in around 4 months.

The Outer Planets

These are best seen when at opposition and are not visible when at conjunction. Opposition occurs when the earth is between the sun and the outer planet. It is the best time to observe them because the planet is visible all through the night and it is due South and at its highest at about midnight. The planet is also at its closest point in its orbit to Earth - making it appear brighter. Conjunction occurs when the outer planet is on the other side of the Sun as seen from Earth.

If the planet is at or near it furthest point South along the ecliptic, then it won't get very high in the sky even at opposition - just as the Sun never gets high in the sky in midwinter. This happens when opposition occurs near midsummer when the planet is opposite the Sun in the sky and in midsummer the Sun is high, so the planet will be low. The opposite of course applies in winter.

The normal cycle for an outer planet is Conjunction - Western Quadrature - Opposition - Eastern Quadrature - Conjunction. After conjunction, the planet moves away from the Sun as seen from Earth and becomes visible again. The planet from this point on rises earlier and earlier in the morning sky and eventually becomes visible in the evening sky. At Western Quadrature it is at its highest at sunrise and by opposition it is in the same position by midnight. By Eastern Quadrature, it is past its best and is at its highest at sunset, meaning it is rising in daytime and setting earlier and earlier until a point when it sets too close to the Sun as seen from Earth and is no longer visible. The duration of this cycle will depend on the planet's closeness to the Sun, i.e. Jupiter completes the above cycle in around 13-14 months.

Linda: "All in all, this is one day Mittens the kitten won't soon forget."
Morbo: "Kittens give Morbo gas."
Attachments:
The following user(s) said Thank You: michael_murphy, lunartic, johnomahony, mykc

Please Log in to join the conversation.

3 weeks 16 hours ago #107425 by Neill
Information Sources and Links

Sky at Night Magazine Observing Guide – All Rounder
Stardust Magazine – All Rounder
in-the-sky.org/– All Rounder
theskylive.com/ - All Rounder
www.nightskyhunter.com/ - All Rounder
Philip's Stargazing 2018 – All Rounder
www.heavens-above.com – All Rounder
www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/ - All Rounder
www.nakedeyeplanets.com - Planets
www.irishastronomy.org - Irish Federation of Astronomy Societies Website and Calendar – All Rounder
irishastro.org.uk/- Irish Astronomical Association website – All Rounder
www.eaas.co.uk - Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Society – All Rounder
neave.com/planetarium - All Rounder (Planetarium software)
eco.mtk.nao.ac.jp/cgi-bin/koyomi/cande/phenomena_en.cgi – Sun/Planets/Moon Only
www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/moon/super-full-moon.html - Moon Only
International Meteor Organisation - www.imo.net/files/meteor-shower/cal2018.pdf - Meteors Only
britastro.org/computing/charts_asteroid.html – Asteroids Only
www.aerith.net – Comets Only
www.ast.cam.ac.uk/%7Ejds/ - Comets Only
messier.seds.org/ - The Messier Catalogue website – Deep Sky Only
www.spaceweather.com – Aurorae Forecasts/Naked Eye Atmospherics
asa.usno.navy.mil/SecA/occns.html - Lunar Occultations

Linda: "All in all, this is one day Mittens the kitten won't soon forget."
Morbo: "Kittens give Morbo gas."

Please Log in to join the conversation.

4 days 6 hours ago #107448 by mykc
The Mars Neptune conjunction on Fri evening is worth checking out, weather permitting. The separation will be just 5’ at 5pm and will have increased to 11’ at 9pm. Fingers crossed for clear skies.

Mike

Celestron 280 mm f/10 SCT
CG-5 mount
Toolbox full of bits n' bobs
Thermal underwear
The following user(s) said Thank You: flt158

Please Log in to join the conversation.

3 days 11 hours ago #107450 by Fermidox
Plenty of clear skies earlier on here in Limerick, but total cloud cover now of course.

Finbarr.

Please Log in to join the conversation.

3 days 11 hours ago #107451 by mykc
Just got in from observing the conjunction. It's pretty windy here (Dublin) but there are large gaps between the clouds so it was easy to observe from a sheltered spot in the back garden. At 16X, using a 55mm Plossl with a 120mm refractor, Mars and Neptune form a very unequal and very wide "double". The blue of Neptune is just about discernible with the little scope so there is a nice colour contrast. Moreover, three field stars, all further than Neptune, are more or less in line with the two planets, so Mars looks a little like Jupiter with four "moons". Unfortunately, it's too breezy to attempt a photo.

Mike

Celestron 280 mm f/10 SCT
CG-5 mount
Toolbox full of bits n' bobs
Thermal underwear
The following user(s) said Thank You: flt158, Fermidox

Please Log in to join the conversation.

Moderators: Neill
Time to create page: 0.090 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum