What’s Up for December 2017? The best meteor shower of the year and the brightest stars in familiar constellations.
Christmas Eve – Mount Tolmie
Don’t forget to take your grand children to the top of Mount Tolmie around 5pm on Christmas Eve. Pyjamas are allowed (for the kids) as long as you stay in the car.
Santa Claus or The International Space Station or both should be seen if you are lucky.
The Geminds peak on the morning of the 14th, and are active from December 4th through the 17th. The peak lasts for a full 24 hours , meaning more worldwide meteor watchers will get to see this spectacle. If you can see Orion and Gemini in the sky you’ll see some Geminids. Expect to see up to 120 meteors per hour between midnight and 4 a.m. but only from a dark sky. You’ll see fewer after moonrise at 3:30 a.m. local time.
The Geminid Meteor shower looking South high over Port Angeles
Take a moment to enjoy the circle of constellations and their brightest stars around Gemini this month. Find yellow Capella in the constellation Auriga. You should be facing South towards the Olympic Mountains and Port Angeles.
Going clockwise–at 3 o’clock find Taurus and bright reddish Aldebaran, plus the Pleiades.
At five o’clock, familiar Orion, with red Betelgeuse, blue-white Rigel, and the three famous belt stars in-between the two.
Next comes Leo, and its white lionhearted star, Regulus at 10 o’clock.
December 22nd/23rd – late evenings: the Ursid Meteor Shower
There’s a second meteor shower in December, the Ursids, radiating from Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper, in the North over Mount Douglas.
If December 22nd and the morning of December 23rd are clear where you are, have a look at the Little Dipper’s bowl, and you might see about ten meteors per hour.
The Ursid meteor shower . The radiant point is just below Polaris the North Star high above the University of Victoria.
The late evenings of the 22nd and 23rd of December are when the Ursid meteor shower will be at its best – though the peak rate of ~10-15 meteors per hour is not that great. Pleasingly, the Moon soon after new, will not affect our view during much of the night. The radiant lies close to the star Kochab in Ursa Minor (hence their name), so look northwards at a high elevation. Occasionally, there can be a far higher rate so its worth having a look should it be clear.
There are so many sights to see in the sky. Use the Night Sky Network, the Solar System Ambassadors, and the Royal Astronomy Club of Canada (Victoria) to look up local astronomy clubs, and join them for stargazing events in town, and under dark skies.
December 2nd before dawn looking towards Seattle :
Mars, Jupiter and Venus climb the “Salish Walk of the Planets” with Mars rising first, then Jupiter and then Venus. The SUN comes quickly behind.
As we all know, the planets, just like the Sun, rise in the East over Mount Baker, and set in the West over Metchosin and the Sooke Hills. They walk across the sky in a huge arc which ends in the West over Sooke Hills.
To spot Venus, a very low horizon will be needed so waterfront owners on Oak Bay will be well positioned facing East across the Salish Sea. Locals can also go to Cattle Point Star Park or even up Mount Tolmie. Great views of the Salish Sea horizon from both locations.
Use binoculars – but please to not use them after the Sun has risen. The chart has reduced the sky brightness to make Venus visible.
You can find out about all of NASA’s missions at www.NASA.gov
Should you wish to meet the RASCals of Cattle Point – see Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/groups/VictoriaRASCals/
Dark Skies to all friends of Cattle Point Star Park.
Summary is from the transcript of “What’s Up in December 2017” by NASA announcer and astronomer Jane Houston Jones with specific permission for localization
to Cattle Point DARK SKY Urban Star Park and the Oak Bay News.
You can subscribe to her weekly BLOG at : http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/category/10things