Christmas is around the corner. Holidays are around the corner. It’s time to spend some quality time with your friends and family. And even nature calls for the festive season to be celebrated at home.
It’s all about the night. If you are thinking what you can do to spend time with your loved ones, stargazing might be one of the answers. If not, you might have just watched the new Star Wars and thought about the stars, the galaxies, and the universe.
December is filed with some of the prominent night sky moments. There is a lot to see in the next two weeks. So get your telescope ready, mark the dates and enjoy what the night sky has to offer during the time.
Your guide to the night sky for December 2016
December 20 – The Alpine Valley
Vallis Alpes, known as The Alpine Valley, is a special feature on the moon that bisects Montes Alpes range, a lunar mountain on the northern side of the moon. Extending 166km from the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains), the valley floor is a lava-flooded surface and is seen as a narrow scar in between.
This thin rill is visible with a small telescope on this day. It’s an interesting region in the moon with scientific significance on how it was formed. Many observations and theories have been made to find the origin of it.
December 22, 23 – Ursid Meteor Shower
Though it starts around December 17, these two nights are the best times to observe Ursid Meteor Shower. The name Ursids comes from the constellation Ursa Minor in the sky, the direction where the meteor shower seems to radiate from. It’s also sometimes known as “Mechian-Tuttle’s Comet” through its association with the comet 8P/Tuttle.
Though you can only see 10-15 meteors per hour, a number quite less compared to other meteor showers, the moonlight won’t affect the viewing, and you can view it clearly.
The best time to view is between 00:00 am and before dawn. But the peak time might vary upon your location, so use the help of google to find the right time at your place.
However, it’s clearly visible from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. During peak hours, you do not even need a telescope or any other special equipment since it can be seen with naked eyes. The direction to look for is Azimuth, based on true north.
December 30, 31 – Venus closes on Mars
It’s the night when Venus will be seen from earth as in very close proximity with Mars. If you don’t know where to look, look for the brightest star in the sky. That’s Venus. Then seek slightly fainter star above the brightest star. That’s Mars. And you can call it by the reddish hue of the object that it’s Mars.
What’s more? Draw an imaginary line in between Venus and Mars. That’s where Neptune will be. You can locate where the eight farthest planet from the sun is. The planet is not visible with a naked eye. But if you have special equipment that has high magnification feature, you can see the bluish tinge and star-like object Neptune.
It’s visible from all around the world, and the time to view it is as soon as the darkness falls.