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What's Up...
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...

The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal
astro-experiences to look forward to.

Sat. Dec. 1 – The twelfth month will be marked by Venus reaching its greatest brilliancy in the early morning sky.

Sun. Dec. 2 – A reminder about the ongoing winter appearance of Comet 46P/Wirtanen. There is a chance it could become a naked eye object by mid month. You can check out its location and brightness with binoculars using the finder chart in the ‘Current Comet’ gallery in our Zenfolio website here: https://rascoc.zenfolio.com/p535261092

Mon. Dec. 3 – The waning crescent Moon will be near brilliant Venus in the pre dawn sky this morning.

Wed. Dec. 5 – The now fingernail-paring waning crescent Moon will visit the inner planet Mercury just above the eastern horizon before dawn this morning.

Thurs. Dec. 6 – An interesting planetary pairing will adorn the western sky after sunset tonight. Mars, which is moving further into the western sky after its spectacular performance earlier this year, will be less than a moon’s width from the blue ice giant Neptune.

Fri. Dec. 7 – This is New Moon night with our neighbour safely tucked away, leaving the sky open for deep sky observing, sketching and imaging, providing the weatherman cooperates.

Sat. Dec. 8 – A very young and thin crescent Moon is creeping into the evening sky and early tonight it will be about the width of two fingers from Saturn low in the western sky. The ringed planet is beginning its farewell appearance in the evening sky as it prepares to duck behind the Sun before reappearing for another tour starting in the morning sky early in the new year.

Thurs. Dec. 13 - One of the main annual meteor showers, the Geminids, will streak the sky both tonight and tomorrow night. Look for 'shooting stars' to emanate from the constellation Gemini, high in the eastern sky. This year the waxing crescent Moon will not interfere! Don’t limit yourself to just this one night… the shower will continue to be underway through Saturday the 16th.

Fri. Dec. 14 – The enlarging crescent Moon will be in the vicinity of Mars tonight. The two will be separated by about the width of two fingers. The outer planet Neptune is also nearby, about two finger widths north of the crescent.

Sat. Dec. 15 – If we have clear skies tonight the perfectly divided First Quarter Moon will beam down on the Okanagan to check on preparations for the festive season. Should snow cover the ground, it will be an especially beautiful sight.

Sat. Dec. 15 – Fleet Mercury is now at greatest western elongation from the Sun, appearing low in the southeastern sky before dawn.

Sun. Dec. 16 – The December comet 46P/Wirtanen is now closest to Earth and near opposition. Tonight it presents a great opportunity to be viewed since it appears close to the Pleiades. A finder chart can be found in the ‘Current Comet’ gallery in our Zenfolio website here: https://rascoc.zenfolio.com/p535261092. The cosmic visitor has chosen picturesque surroundings, moving just over the Hyades and tonight just below the Pleiades in moon-free skies.

Wed. Dec. 19 – Tonight will offer another opportunity to catch ‘the Demon Star’ in one of its blinks. Algol in Perseus, climbing into the northeastern sky, will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centered at 11.47pm this evening. Compare its dimmer brightness with neighbouring stars in the early evening and then check it out again near the minimum to see the difference in brightness.

Thurs. Dec. 20 – To add excitement to festive preparations, tonight the waxing gibbous Moon will pose amongst the Hyades open star cluster in Taurus.

Fri. Dec. 21 – For those up before dawn this morning there will be an interesting sight low in the eastern sky. The innermost planet Mercury will be only the width of your little finger from the gas giant Jupiter which has now entered the morning sky.

Fri. Dec. 21 - How quickly time passes! The winter solstice will take place at 2.23pm on this shortest day of the year. Why not plan to be at the Pen Henge standing stone array on Munson Mountain in Penticton where interested people will join members of the Okanagan Centre of RASC for a solstice gathering around 2.45 to 3pm in anticipation of marking the dramatic sunset (if it is clear) at 3.27pm. At that time the Sun's shadow will extend from the winter solstice stone to the Heel Stone.

Sat. Dec. 22 – There is a minor meteor shower scheduled for tonight, however the Full Moon will make it difficult to observe. The Ursids are not the brightest shower going either. The shower derives its name from its radiant in Ursa Minor not far from Polaris. It yields an average of about 10 meteors per hour.

Sat. Dec. 22 – This is Full Moon night, and since our neighbour will reach perigee in two days, the closest point in its orbit to Earth, this apparition will appear a bit larger than average as it rises over the eastern mountains to check out busy festive preparations.

Sat. Dec. 22 – Algol, the ‘Demon Star’ will put on another performance this evening. The eclipsing binary star will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centered at 11.36pm this evening. Compare its dimmer brightness with neighbouring stars in the early evening and then check it out again near the minimum to see the difference in brightness.

Mon. Dec. 24 – An interesting sky event will take place tonight as the waning gibbous Moon is in the vicinity of the Beehive star cluster M44. It will give Santa something extra to enjoy on his Christmas Eve journey.

Sat. Dec. 29 – This is Last Quarter Moon night as our neighbour moves into position in the constellation Virgo to help light the path for revelers ahead of New Year celebrations.