Here comes the Yuletide observing season, so get ready to tilt your neck up.
There are plenty of cosmic events happening in those amazing Yukon night skies throughout the entire month of December.
The month starts off with Jupiter rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. This means that Jupiter is in the sky all night and is bright enough to be seen even if the northern lights are out. Wonderful.
On Monday, Dec. 3, in the early morning hours just before, dawn look to the southeastern horizon below the constellation of Virgo. Here you’ll get to see a triple shot of planets, all evenly spaced, rising off the horizon. Closest to the horizon is little Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, then move seven degrees diagonally and you’ll find brilliant Venus. Then move your binoculars or telescope seven degrees up again, and you will find the ringed, gas giant Saturn.
If you take your finger and follow the planets, making an arc across the night sky, you have just found the ecliptic, an imaginary line that runs across the night sky in which the planets can always be found.
This makes for an excellent photo opportunity. All you have to do is put an old barn, or a boat in the foreground and you have all the makings for an excellent picture.
On December 10 and 11,in the early morning, predawn skies, look to the southeastern horizon and behold: a cosmic traffic jam. Closest to the horizon is Mercury, followed by Venus and then Saturn. On December 10, the crescent moon is below Saturn and above Venus and on December 11, the moon is just below Venus.
Friday the 13th brings good luck this December; keep your eyes peeled for one of the year’s best meteor showers. The Geminid shower is expected to shoot 80 to 100 meteors per hour into our sky, producing a fabulous sight.
These meteors will appear to come from the constellation Gemini with the two brilliant marker stars, Castor and Pollux. To locate Gemini, look to the east and locate Jupiter, and the move downward past the belt of Orion.
The Geminid meteor shower is renown for producing slow-moving, bright meteors that make everyone’s jaw drop. The best way to observe it is to find a dark-sky location a short distance from the city lights. Bring a reclining lawn chair and a sleeping bag.
On Christmas, we will have a crescent moon only 1 degree away from the planet Jupiter in the evening sky. Even with a pair of small binoculars, this makes an awesome view, but it only gets better as larger spotting scopes and telescopes are used — another amazing photo opportunity.
So grab the current issue of Sky News, your binoculars or telescope, and head outside and see those amazing Yukon night skies for yourself.
December’s Night Lights
Dec 2nd Jupiter now rises at sunset and sets at sunrise.
Dec 3rd Saturn, Venus, and Mercury are all 7 degrees apart from each other in the morning sky.
Dec 4th In the morning sky find Mercury, below Saturn and Venus.
Dec 6th Last quarter moon.
Dec 10th The crescent moon and Saturn only 5 degrees apart in the morning sky.
Dec 11th Mercury, Venus and the crescent moon are all clustered together in the early morning sky just before sunrise.
Dec 13th A moonless night could present a fantastic opportunity for observing the Geminid meteor shower.
Dec 20th First quarter moon.
Dec 21st Winter Solstice, winter in the northern hemisphere officially begins. It is not the end of the world!
Dec 25th The crescent moon and Jupiter are only 1 degree apart and both are 3.5 degrees away from the bright star Aldebaran.
Dec 28th Full moon.
James “Deep Sky” Cackette can be reached at email@example.com. See his photo adventures on Facebook at Yukon Night Skies.