December & January Night Skies in 2017/2018
- This year in December we will be treated to a favourable Geminds Meteor shower
- Saturn is disappearing from view,
- Jupiter and Mars begin their close encounter in the morning skies.
- We get a good look at the constellations Perseus, Pegasus & Andromeda in the northern sky.
- The “Ghoul Star” Algol, a star that we can observe changing colour and brightness over just 10 hours is in prime viewing!
- In January its all about the Moon, We start the month with a Super moon and end it with a total Lunar eclipse
- Mars and Saturn are at their closest in the early morning in the 1st week of January
Geminids Meteor Shower
The Geminids are one of the most prolific meteor showers of the year with up to 120 Meteors per hour gracing our skies, in a display that peaks on the 14th of December. The shower is active between the 4th and 17th of December. Unlike last year, the Geminids this year coincide with the New Moon giving the opportunity to see the maximum number of Meteors against the dark moonless sky. To see the Geminids, look to the NE from around 9 to 10pm and you may see some rising from the horizon, but they peak in the Northern sky at their highest altitude around 2am, with no moon to interfere.
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn & others
The King of the Planets Saturn is lost in the solar glare over December and January, however Jupiter and Mars will have a close pairing that starts on the 31st of December culminating on the 7th of January at just 0.3 deg separation before drifting apart again. For those keen to seek them out, Neptune and Uranus are visible in the evening skies, but you had better bring a telescope as they are just at or below naked eye visibility.
Early evening in December see’s the constellations Pegasus, Andromeda & Perseus dominating the Northern sky. These constellations are notonly the scene for ancient tales of Heroes, Monsters and maidens in distress. They are the home of 2 Galaxies that can be seen with binoculars or even the naked eye (Triangulum & Andromeda Galaxies)
It is also the home of the bright star Algol or Beta Perseus from the Arabic “Head of the Ghoul”, this star was endowed with a tag of being “Evil” as the ancients could not explain its habit of changing in brightness and colour over a short 10 hour period. We now know that it is an eclipsing binary pair with the fainter orange dwarf eclipsing the hot blue primary star every 2.9 days.
January is dominated by the apparitions of The Moon.The month starts with a so called “Supermoon” on the 2nd of January, this is where the full moon coincides with the moon at Perigee (closest to earth). At this time the moon can appear to be 14% bigger and 10% brighter than the smallest (Apogee) full moon. Then at the end of the month the moon makes its Blue Moon Appearance (2nd full moon in 1 calendar month) with a Total Lunar eclipse, the eclipse begins at 9:45pm with totality beginning at 9 minutes to midnight and ending at 7 minutes past midnight. A total lunar eclipse is an event worth seeing with the moon going blood red to black as it passes into the earths deep (umbral) shadow.
Keeping up with the night Sky in 2018
We have a couple of great tools to help you get out under the night sky in 2018 & all of them are under $30.
The Star Disc, the essential tool for navigating the constellations, anywhere in the southern hemisphere at just $22.50
The Astronomy 2018 Calendar gives you a month by month and day to day account of all the best things to see in the night sky at just $20
Astronomy 2018 is the definitive guide to astronomy in 2018 with maps charts, meteor showers, comets & much more
We stock an extensive range of Telescopes, Binoculars and all your astronomy accessories, as well as servicing Telescopes and Binoculars !
Night Sky Secrets are located at The Pier shopping centre and open 7 days or online at www.nightskysecrets.com.au or call us on 07 4000 4091.