Sunday, December 23, 2007

Moon meets Mars

Our moon practically bumps into Mars tonight. Mars may be at its brightest, but the moon's light may easily overpower anything celestial that approaches too close to it. See if you can discern Mars' bright glow next to the moon. Binoculars may help. Remember, Mars' diameter is twice that of the moon, but it lies 230 times farther away. Therefore, it appears starlike, while the moon appears, well, moonlike.

On Christmas Eve, Mars reaches opposition relative to the Earth and sun. It will rise at sunset, and set at sunrise. In otherwords, it is on the opposite side of the sky as the sun.

Over the next month, Mars will be the brightest object (next to the moon) in our evening sky. Only Venus, which rises about 4:30 a.m., outshines the Red Planet.

Such is our view from Earth...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Geminid Meteor Shower

With what may turn out to be the year's best meteor shower, the Geminids arrive on the nights of December 13 and 14. The shower emanates from the constellation Gemini which is nearly overhead at midnight this time of year. You don't need to face Gemini, though. In fact, the meteors that are away from that constellation give longer streakes. The ones seen in Gemini are falling more or less directly at you, and, therefore, appear relatively short.

Go outside after 9 pm on December 13 or 14. The best time to view them is after 1 am on the 14th. Even though there may be up to 120 per hour, an observer is much more likely to see 1/3 that number. That higher figure includes the ones you don't see behind you and the fainter meteors which are difficult to spot.

Dress warmly and good luck!

Such is our view from Earth...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Comet Holmes, a great binocular object

Bring out the binoculars for a great view of Comet Holmes. It is easily seen as a round fuzzy smudge just to the west of Alpha Persei (Mirfak). Over the next six weeks, although it remains in the general area, it slowly moves towards Algol. Try finding it on the next clear night using November's diagram.

Such is the view from Earth...