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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

A special full moon

Posted on November 25 2009 at 10:05:35 0 comments

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

December, and Jupiter is still the brightest object in the evening twilight but setting earlier each day so the end of the year sees an end to the bright planets for a while.

On the 21st, a thin crescent Moon will be very close to Jupiter, in the south west but only till about seven o’clock so look out for it as soon as you get home. The 21st also sees the Winter Solstice (at 17:47 to be precise) so the full Moon on the 31st will be very high in the sky if you are out and about around midnight for any reason.

This will be a very special full Moon too, as we should see the very bottom of the Moon turn reddish as it grazes the Earth’s shadow in a partial Lunar eclipse. Look out for it from about six in the evening till about eight.

During December, the Great Square of Pegasus is very distinct in the south west and looking to the left or east, coming into view now is the beautiful little cluster of stars called the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. These blue-white stars, roughly four hundred light years away, illuminate a surrounding cloud of gas, giving them a slightly “fuzzy” look but, they are a magnificent sight through binoculars.

About halfway between the Great Square and Pleiades, are two pairs of stars, forming a pair of parallel lines. The top one, on closer inspection, is part of a thin triangle of stars, making up the constellation of Triangulum. The lower one is the brightest part of Aries, a tiny constellation of about four stars.

On the other side of the Pleiades, and slightly lower, is the “V” of Taurus, the big red star Aldebaran making it easily identifiable. Within the “V” is another cluster of stars called the Hyades, not as distinct as the Seven Sisters but a great target for binoculars.

Following Taurus, the magnificent constellation of Orion starts to dominate as we move into 2010. Further into January, the planet Mars will be starting to appear late in the evenings, low in the east. This is a very distinctive planet because, although not as bright as Jupiter, the reddish orange colour is very noticeable.

On January 15th there will be an annular eclipse of the Sun. Although not visible in the UK (I am an expert on where you can‘t see eclipses!), it will be noteworthy because the Earth is just about as close to the Sun as it ever gets and the Moon is just about as far away as it gets. This means that the “ring” of Sun left on view will be as thick as it can be; look out for pictures.

Finally, previous years have seen reports of a mysterious flying object observed crossing the sky on the night of the 24th of December. I shall certainly be out looking on that night. See if you can spot it…

Happy Christmas!


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