Sky Report by Ted Gruber
Saturn (magnitude 0.5) makes its final appearance in the evening sky until next summer. Look for the ringed planet low in the southwest as darkness falls through mid-December.
Although Mars (magnitude 0.2) is now considerably dimmer than it was during its summer peak, it currently lies much higher in the evening sky. Mars is visible in the southern sky at twilight until setting in the west-southwest around 11:00pm.
Venus (magnitude -4.8) rises in the southeastern sky around 4:00am and remains visible until fading into the morning light.
Mercury (magnitude -0.5) returns to the morning sky at the end of November. It reaches its peak altitude about 10° above the horizon around 45 minutes before sunrise in mid-December. Thereafter, Mercury dips a little lower each morning but remains visible through early January.
Jupiter (magnitude -1.8) returns to the morning sky in early December. It rises after Mercury through December 21, and before Mercury starting December 22.
The moon passes 4° north of Venus the morning of December 3, 2° north of Mercury the morning of December 5, 1° north of Saturn the evening of December 8, and 4° south of Mars the evening of December 14.
Mars and Neptune (magnitude 7.9) are at conjunction on December 7. Neptune will appear as a faint blue “star” immediately east-northeast of Mars on the evening of December 6, and immediately southwest of Mars the next night.
Mercury passes 0.9° north of Jupiter the morning of December 21.
The Leonids are active through November 30, peaking the night of November 17-18. They are known for producing some of the most intense meteor storms recorded, but this year we can expect 10-15 meteors per hour during the peak.
The Geminids are active from December 4-17, peaking the night of December 13-14, under a favorable moon that sets by 11:00pm. The meteors appear to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini, near the bright stars Castor and Pollux. Predictions call for as many as 120 meteors per hour during the peak.
First (11/15), full (11/23), last (11/29), new (12/7), first (12/15), full (12/22), last (12/29).
Messier of the Month – M56
M56 is a magnitude 8.3 globular cluster in the constellation Lyra. It is about 32,900 light years distant and 84 light years across. It contains about 80,000 stars and its estimated age is 13.7 billion years.
M56 is one of the more challenging Messier objects to observe with binoculars because of its relatively dim magnitude and the fact that it does not have a bright central core. In larger binoculars, M56 appears as a slightly out of focus star. Smaller telescopes show the cluster as a fuzzy patch of light, while an 8-inch or larger scope will resolve individual stars.
Friends of Galileo
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