Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Total lunar eclipse - bad for Europe, good for Americas - highlight of December

Except for Venus & Saturn in the morning skies (seen in wide shots on Dec. 1 with the Moon and Nov. 26 and in detail on Nov. 28; more below) there hasn't been much - w.r.t. predictable sky events - of note lately, but that is changing in December, as previews e.g. here, hier, hier and hier show:
  • Dec. 1: Mercury in greatest Eastern elongation (21.5°).

  • Dec. 2: Venus at greatest brilliance, reaching about -4.7 (sources differ between -4.5 and -4.9) mag.

  • Dec. 7: Lunar crescent Moon near Mercury in the evening sky.

  • Dec. 13-14: Peak of the Geminid meteors - apart from the Quadrantids next January the only major shower til 2012 without much lunar interference!

  • Dec. 14: Mercury & Mars in conjunction, only 1° apart but very hard to observe at dusk.

  • Dec. 21: Total lunar eclipse with partiality from 6:33 to 10:01 and totality from 7:41 to 8:53 UTC - this is bad for Europe (and even a bit late for the Eastern U.S.). See this 3-years-old entry for general - yet still seldom-heard - advice on how to get the most out of a total lunar eclipse!

  • Dec. 27: Approximate beginning of a little morning visibility of Mercury.

  • Dec. 29: The Moon forms an 8° triangle with Saturn and Spica in the mornings skies.
Also of note are the arrival of Japan's Akatsuki in Venus orbit on Dec. 7 - and a particularly long interval between new and full Moon this month. We can also look forward to 2011 which starts right away with a partial solar eclipse on Jan. 4.

The revival of Jupiter's SEB is continuing (following the typical scenario laid out 15 years ago in Sanchez-Lavega & Gomez, Icarus 121 [1996] 1-17 almost exactly!): progress reports up to Nov. 27 and Nov. 20, an animation, a map of Nov. 29 an amateur IR image of Nov. 17 and more reports (includig big scope IR imagery) from Nov. 29, Nov. 25, Nov. 24 (also on the IR pics; more, more, more, more, more and mehr) and Nov. 22 (mentioning this blog; more). The SEB disturbance is now so obvious that it can even be detected with poor seeing (Nov. 25). • On Venus a German amateur succeeded again in November to image the planet's surface in the NIR; also UV impressions of Nov. 27.

Hartley 2 is still around: images of Dec. 1 & Nov. 27, Nov. 30, Nov. 27 (more, more), Nov. 26 and Nov. 23, plus a visual report of Nov. 30 and Herschel observations. • The origin of the Oort cloud (paper actually several months old), more thoughts about Pluto & Eris (diameters exactly the same?) and Sedna (at least as mysterious), a paper on triple Cleopatra, new NEO grants and Wisconsin (this spring) and South Africa (looong time ago) meteorite/crater stories.

In other news symbiotic variable AX Per might erupt soon, and the status of Eps Aur (plus the 7th Newsletter of Citizen Sky). • A gorgeous picture of the zodiacal light from this location at an Indian observatory deep in the Himalayas; that took some preparations! • Extremely distorted lunar images from the ISS (as predicted; p. 7), a wild Halo display and an aurora movie. • The MyDarkSky project needs support. And hi-res lunar images by amateurs here as well as here!

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