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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.

Sun. Dec. 1 - The pre-dawn sky will offer an early Christmas treat this morning as three objects will rise in turn at about the same location over the eastern horizon. First up will be bright Spica in Virgo followed by ruddy Mars, with the innermost planet Mercury following the two by about the same distance.

Wed. Dec. 4 - This is First Quarter Moon night with our neighbour's brilliantly lit half sphere adding early festive decoration to a December Okanagan evening. For those with a taste for a bit of telescope action, the outer ice giant Neptune will be about the width of two fingers north of La Luna.

Wed. Dec. 4  – Tonight will offer an 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 7.18pm this evening. Compare its dimmer brightness with neighbouring stars in the early evening and then check it out again as it returns to full brightness late in the evening.

Sun. Dec. 8 - Identifying Uranus will be made easier tonight thanks to the waxing gibbous Moon. The pale green disk will be about the width of three fingers north of our neighbour in the night sky.

Tues. Dec. 10 - Two interesting planets will gather close together low in the southwest sky tonight. Saturn will pose only about a finger's width above brilliant Venus which is beginning her performance as the Evening Star.

Thurs. Dec. 12 - This is Full Moon night with our fully illuminated companion brightening the early winter night, checking to see how early Christmas preparations are going in the Okanagan Valley.

Fri. Dec. 13 - One of the main annual meteor showers, the Geminids, will streak the sky both tonight and tomorrow night, unfortunately in the company of an almost full Moon. Look for 'shooting stars' to emanate from the constellation Gemini, high in the eastern sky. Don’t limit yourself to just this one night… the shower will continue to be underway through Monday the 16th.

Tues. Dec. 17 - Though it is still mid December, in the wee hours early tomorrow morning the waning gibbous Moon will visit the spring constellation Leo, appearing about the width of two fingers from bright Regulus, holding down the base of the reversed question mark asterism.

Wed. Dec. 18 - This is Last Quarter Moon night. The distinctive reverse half lit sphere will rise after midnight to assist those up late and it will remain in the sky to greet early risers in the morning.
Sat. Dec. 21 - How quickly time passes! The winter solstice will take place at 8.19pm 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.

Sun. Dec. 22 – There is a minor meteor shower scheduled for tonight, and the waning crescent Moon should not present much of a problem. The Ursids are not the brightest shower going, but a meteor shower is a meteor shower. 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.

Tues. Dec. 24 – Tonight Algol, the ‘Demon Star’ will tip a wink to Santa Claus. The eclipsing binary star will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centered at 9.02pm this evening. If Santa is using Algol for navigation, he will notice a marked increase in its brightness as the night wears on.

Thurs. Dec. 26 - This is New Moon night with our neighbour sheepishly hiding out in  the Sun's direction after having left Santa in the lurch without the aid of its light last Tuesday night. In fact, as seen from a path crossing close to Dubai, the southern tip of India and the islands of Indonesia the smaller aphelic lunar disk will be seen to cross right in front of the Sun's face in an annular eclipse, leaving only a very thin ring of the Sun visible.

Fri. Dec. 27 - The very young fingernail crescent Moon will appear just south of Saturn low in the western sky this evening.

Sat. Dec. 28 – A delayed Christmas gift will be in the sky tonight. It is always exciting to see bright Venus close to a thin crescent Moon, and this is one of the evenings it will take place. Only about four Moon widths will separate the pair low in the southwest sky.