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Posts Tagged 'winter-highlights'

Astronomy Highlights in Winter 2020/21

December 2 2020, Marcus Schenk

An extremely close encounter between Jupiter and Saturn, Mars and Uranus together in your field of view and the Geminids coincide with a new Moon. Once again there are all sorts of reasons to take a look and admire the starry sky. In the infographic “Astronomy Highlights in Winter 2020/21”, you have all the important celestial events occurring in the next three months at a glance. We wish you lots of observing pleasure!

December:

13/12 Geminids

If the evening sky is clear, take a look to the south. The Geminids meteor shower will appear to be originating from the constellation Gemini. Or to be more precise: from a point two degrees above the star Pollux. The best time for observing is between 21:00 and 06:00 CEST. With 120 meteors per hour, the Geminids are among the most active meteor showers. We are especially lucky with the timing this year since we have a new Moon and so we can observe, undisturbed, all night.

13/12 Conjunction between the Moon and Venus

Are you an early bird who can think of nothing better than to gaze at the stars in the early hours? This morning it will be worth your while. From around 05:30 GMT (06:30 CET) you can see lustrous Venus in the sky and, underneath it, the delicate crescent Moon – since the very next day we have a new Moon. This weekend is perfect for deep-sky observing.

17/12 Conjunction between the Moon, Saturn and Jupiter

We are able to enjoy this attractive event thanks to the fact that at the moment it gets dark early. At dusk we see a conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and the young waxing crescent Moon. The two gas giants accompanied us throughout last summer and every evening they were the brightest objects in the southern sky. Now they disappear early and let the winter sky take centre stage.

21/12 Ursids

The Ursids are a meteor shower on which you can keep your eye on all night. This is because they originate from the constellation Ursa Minor, from which these meteors also get their name. These beacons speed across the sky considerably slower than the Perseids – at around 35 kilometers per second.

21/12 Winter solstice

21/12 Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn (note: they appear very close together)

Are you observing the Star of Bethlehem today? It’s the highlight of the month and you definitely shouldn’t miss it. On 21 December, coinciding with the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn present us with an unusual spectacle since in this conjunction they are just 5 arc minutes apart. A truly rare sight.

Let’s step back in time: Jupiter and Saturn also met one another in the year 7 BC. In that year a total of three such conjunctions in constellation Pisces between these two planets occurred. Scientists can still prove that today. We can assume that, due to its distinctive nature, this was what became to be known as the Star of Bethlehem. An interesting association so close to Christmas, isn’t it?

How about observing both of them through your telescope in a single field of view? You need to be sure to take up your observing position early. Preferably around 17:00 CET when the gas giants are sufficiently high in the sky, since in less than 1.5 hours they will disappear into the haze on the horizon.

21/12 The Moon occults mag 4.3 star

At 20:04 GMT (21:04 CET) the Moon occults the 4.3 mag star 30 PSC, which belongs to the constellation Pisces. What is especially beautiful is that the Moon moves closer to the star from its unilluminated side, so suddenly the star disappears as if it was simply switched off. At 21:15 GMT (22:15 CET) it twinkles again from the other side of the Moon.

23/12 The Moon near Mars

In October Mars stood in favourable opposition and was spectacular to see. Now it is in the constellation Pisces where it can be observed during the first half of the night. This evening the Moon joins it.

24/12

Happy Christmas!

27/12 The Moon near Aldebaran and the Pleiades

Even people who do not concern themselves with the night sky notice the Pleiades, and they often mistake them for Ursa Minor. Observers of the sky know differently: it is the best-known open star cluster which has been observed by mankind for thousands of years and which has a special significance for many cultures. Tonight the Moon meets up with the Pleiades and with Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.

January:

02/01 Quadrantids

The Quadrantids is a meteor shower originating from the constellation Boötes. The new year starts with an astronomical performance which delivers around 120 meteors per hour. The radiant, from where the shooting stars appear to originate, only appears after midnight. Unfortunately, this year the bright Moon disturbs the show, since full Moon was only three days ago.

03/01 The Moon near Regulus

Today the Moon and Regulus can be seen, with a separation of 4 degrees. The name Regulus means ”little king“ in Latin. Because of its proximity to the ecliptic, it regularly meets the Moon.

07/01 The Moon near Spica

Spica is a massive blue star, a variable star, and at the same time a binary star system. 262 light years away, 13,000 times brighter than the Sun, and 7.5 times larger than the radius of the Sun, it takes 16th place in the list of the brightest stars in the sky. Spica is located at the ear of grain that Virgo holds in her left hand, this is also the origin of the star’s Latin name. On 7 January the Moon is nearby.

11/01 The Moon near Venus

On the morning of 11 January dawn is nearly over when Venus rises at 06:00 GMT (07:00 CET) and meets the slender crescent Moon above. At this point the Sun is still just 9 degrees below the horizon.

20/01 Mars near Uranus

The planet Uranus is theoretically visible with the naked eye. However, in practice the 2.9 billion kilometre distant planet is not so easy to find. The problem is that it is so small that it can be difficult to distinguish from a star. This is tricky with binoculars, but is a little easier with a telescope where you can distinguish one ”star“ with a minimally-greater diameter from another. This evening you can find Uranus more easily because it comes near Mars at a distance of 1.5 degrees.

If you use an eyepiece with a longer focal length then you can admire both in your field of view.

21/01 The Moon near Mars

Today the Moon passes Mars at a separation of 5.5 degrees.

24.01. Mercury at greatest eastern elongation

Mercury orbits the Sun so quickly and so close, that we cannot always observe it. However now Mercury is once again at a greater angular distance of 18 degrees from the Sun. That’s not a large number, but we can nonetheless observe it during its half phase. Mercury is to be seen in the evening sky shortly after sunset. Whatever you do, wait until the Sun has set. Then you will discover Mercury just above the western horizon.

27/01 Mercury at best visibility

Today Mercury reaches its highest position in the night sky, and with it its best evening visibility. From tomorrow its orbit sends it lower, back towards the horizon.

February:

03/02 The Moon near Spica

Once again, this morning the Moon passes by star Spica in Virgo. What is behind these frequent encounters? The ecliptic lies above Spica which ensures that the Moon frequently comes to visit.

06/02 The Moon near Antares

This morning, the 23-day old and waning Moon meets Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius.

19/02 The Moon near Mars, Pleiades and the Hyades

A fine sight in the evening sky: the Moon visits the constellation Taurus and remains in a position between the Hyades and the Pleiades. Both are ancient open star clusters that people have been observing since time immemorial. Mars joins in too. Isn’t this get-together worth a photo?

23/02 The Moon near Pollux

In the last days of the month the waxing Moon wanders from the constellation Taurus towards Gemini. This evening it meets Pollux, a red giant star that is 34 light years away.

26/02 The Moon near Regulus

Just a few hours before the full Moon, our satellite meets up with Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. When dusk is over we see an interesting image in the starry sky: in the west the autumn constellations are disappearing from view, in the south the winter constellations reach their highest point, and in the east spring is climbing over the horizon.

Infographic: Winter Astronomy Highlights 2019/2020

November 29 2019, Marcus Schenk

The winter is getting really cold again, but there is no better time than this for really good, early evening, chances to observe the stars. And what will lure you outside better than the Hunter of the Skies, the Seven Sisters or the Eye of the Bull?

The sky calendar with the interesting events for the next three months: the astronomical infographic “Winter Astronomy Highlights 2019/20” shows you when a glance at the sky will be worthwhile.

We wish you lots of fun with your observing!

December

1st of December: Planet alignment

At dusk there is a lovely meeting of the planets Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. They are accompanied by the waxing Moon.

11th of December: Saturn meets Venus

The planets Venus and Saturn meet today at dusk, above the northwest horizon. Look out for the difference in brightness between the two as they race past one another, less than 2 degrees apart.

11th of December: The Moon meets Aldebaran

Already in the early evening we can see Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull, as it appears above the horizon. However today it reveals itself with the almost fully-illuminated Moon. A great evening for observing planets and double stars.

13th of December: The Geminids

If the sky is clear in the evening, it’s best to take a look to the south. Because the Geminids shooting stars appear to originate from the constellation Gemini. To be more precise: from a point two degrees above the star Pollux. The best time for observing is between 21:00 CET and 6:00 CET. At 120 meteors per hour, the Geminids are among the most reliable shooting stars. However this year the full Moon will disrupt the view. Nevertheless, you should not miss this event.

23rd of December: The Moon meets Mars

Early risers take note: one day before Christmas it’s worth getting up early and taking a look at the sky. At dawn a delicate crescent Moon shines, just 10% illuminated, and meets up with Mars, the god of war.

23rd of December: The Ursids

The Ursids are a meteor shower that you can keep your eye on all night. This is because they originate from Ursa Minor, from which these meteors get their name. However these beacons speed across the sky more slowly than the Perseids – at around 35 kilometers per second.

29th of December: Moon meets Venus

As soon as it gets dark we can see them shining above the horizon: the Moon and Venus. Even if this is not the most astronomically interesting event, under a clear twilight sky this sight is probably one of the most beautiful. This evening the Moon can be seen as a wafer-thin crescent and Venus shines in all its splendour.

January

4th of January: The Quadrantids

The Quadrantids are a meteor shower originating from the constellation Böotes. The New Year almost begins with an astronomical fireworks display, which brings us about 120 meteors per hour. In the evening the half-lit Moon is still high in the sky: wait until it disappears under the horizon before you start observing – then it will be dark. Böotes is one of the spring and summer constellations and so now, in winter, it – and therefore also the radiant – does not rise until after midnight. Then observing can become very interesting. Oh and yes, wrap up warmly, because patience is required when observing meteors.

5th of January: The Moon’s Golden Handle

A fascinating event: the Moon’s Golden Handle. Like a handle of light, it breaks the Moon’s darkness just beyond the terminator. We look at Mare Imbrium in the region of Sinus Iridum crater and the high Montes Jura mountain range. The Sun rises here at the boundary between light and shadow. While the crater is still in darkness, the Sun bathes the circular-shaped peaks of Montes Jura in light. A golden ring in the dark.

18th of January: Mars meets Antares

Antares is a red supergiant in the constellation Scorpius. It shines with an intense red light and resides at the very bottom of the class M spectral type. If it stood in the place of the Sun, Antares would reach beyond the orbit of Mars. But today Mars and Antares meet only visually for us in the sky. Compare the red colours of these two celestial bodies.

27th of January: Venus meets Neptune

One very close, the other very distant: our neighbouring planet Venus meets up with the outpost of our solar system. With just the naked eye, however, we can admire only Venus. But less than a degree north we meet Neptune, which reveals itself in a telescope as a small blue disc.

28th of January: The Moon meets Venus

Another chance to see this beautiful sight: Venus and the narrow, 12% illuminated, crescent Moon. Until around 20:00 CET we can easily follow the two brightest bodies in the sky, before Venus disappears below the horizon, often in haze, a good 40 minutes later.

February

4th of February: The Moon’s Golden Handle

As on the 5th of January, today we can once again observe the Moon’s Golden Handle. This is caused by the illuminated peaks of Montes Jura mountain range on the dark side of the terminator.

10th of February: Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation

Mercury is nimble and only rarely visible. But right now our shy friend reveals himself in the evening sky. It is positioned at its greatest angular distance from the Sun and is barely visible in the growing twilight. For this you need a very good view of the horizon, cloud-free and clear weather, and binoculars with which you can discover Mercury.

27th of February: The Moon meets Venus

The second beautiful sighting of the crescent Moon and Venus at dusk. Meanwhile we can follow the splendour of the bright and shining Venus in the sky for some time – as it only disappears under the horizon at around 22:00 CET.

05.12.2020
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