December Celestial Calendar by Dave Mitsky
All times, unless otherwise noted, are UT (subtract five hours and, when appropriate, one calendar day for EST)
12/2 Uranus is 1.2 degrees south of the Moon, with an occultation visible from the Arctic, eastern Alaska, and western Canada, at 0:00
12/3 Asteroid 23 Thalia (magnitude +9.2) is at opposition at 3:00
12/4 The year’s earliest end of evening twilight at 40 degrees north latitude occurs today
12/6 The Moon is 1.4 degrees north of the first-magnitude star Spica (Alpha Virginis), at 5:00; Full Moon (known as the Before Yule, Cold, Long Nights, and Oak Moon) occurs at 12:27
12/7 The earliest sunset of the year at 40 degrees north latitude occurs today
12/8 Mercury is at aphelion today; Mercury is in superior conjunction at 10:00
12/9 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit begins at 4:20; Jupiter is stationary at 7:00
12/10 Asteroid 1 Ceres is in conjunction with the Sun at 0:00
12/12 Mars is at perihelion today; Jupiter is 5 degrees north of the Moon at 4:00; a double Galilean satellite shadow transit begins at 17:16; the Moon is at apogee, subtending 29'32" from a distance of 404,581 kilometers (251,395 miles), at 23:00
12/14 The peak of the Geminid meteor shower (100 to 120 per hour) occurs at 12:00; Last Quarter Moon occurs at 12:51; asteroid 3 Juno is stationary at 21:00
12/15 The Curtiss Cross, an X-shaped illumination effect located between the craters Parry and Gambart, is predicted to occur at 10:57
12/16 A double Galilean satellite shadow transit begins at 6:12
12/19 Saturn is 1.5 degrees south of the Moon at 21:00
12/21 The shortest day of the year at 40 degrees north latitude occurs today; winter solstice in the northern hemisphere occurs at 23:03
12/22 New Moon (lunation 1138) occurs at 1:36; Uranus is stationary at 6:00; the peak of the Ursid meteor shower (10 per hour) occurs at 20:00
12/23 Venus is 6 degrees south of the Moon at 5:00
12/24 The Moon is at perigee, subtending 32'46" from a distance of 364,797 kilometers (226,674 miles), at 17:00
12/25 Mars is 6 degrees south of the Moon at 8:00
12/26 Venus is at aphelion today; Neptune is 4 degrees south of the Moon at 15:00
12/28 First Quarter Moon occurs at 18:31
12/29 Mercury is at its greatest heliocentric latitude south today; the Lunar X (the Purbach or Werner Cross), an X-shaped illumination effect involving various rims and ridges between the craters La Caille, Blanchinus, and Purbach, is predicted to occur at 0:06; Uranus is 1.0 degree south of the Moon, with an occultation visible from Alaska, northern Canada, the Arctic Ocean, northeastern Russia, and Japan, at 5:00
Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and Arthur Eddington were born in December.
Giovanni Cassini discovered the Saturnian satellite Rhea on December 23, 1672.
December 14th’s Geminid meteor shower is compromised somewhat by a Last Quarter Moon this year. The Geminids, which are associated with the Palladian asteroid, or possible cometary nucleus, 3200 Phaethon, have become the most reliable meteor shower of the year. Geminid meteors appear to originate from a radiant that’s just northwest of Castor (Alpha Geminorum). An article on the 2014 Geminids appears on page 51 of the December issue of Sky & Telescope. The Ursids, a normally minor meteor shower, peak on December 22nd. The radiant is located close to Kochab (Beta Ursa Minoris), some 15 degrees from the north celestial pole. See http://in-the-sky.or...20141214_11_100 and http://www.imo.net/calendar/2014#gem for additional information on the Geminids and http://in-the-sky.or...20141222_11_100 and http://www.imo.net/calendar/2014#urs for more on the Ursids.
Information on Iridium flares and passes of the ISS, the Tiangong-1, the X-37B, the HST, and other satellites can be found at http://www.heavens-above.com/
The Moon is 8.5 days old, is illuminated 67.7%, and is located in Pisces on December 1st at 0:00 UT. It attains its greatest northern declination (+18.7 degrees) for the month on December 7th and its greatest southern declinations (-18.7 degrees) on December 21st. Longitudinal libration is at a maximum of +4.9 degrees on December 6th and a minimum of -6.2 degrees on December 19th. Latitudinal libration is at a maximum of +6.6 degrees on December 9th and a minimum of -6.6 degrees on December 23rd. Visit http://saberdoesthes...does-the-stars/ for tips on spotting extreme crescent Moons and http://www.curtrenz.com/moon06.html for Full Moon data. Times and dates for the lunar light rays predicted to occur this month are available at http://www.lunar-occ...o/rays/rays.htm
The Sun is located in Ophiuchus on December 1st. Winter solstice for the northern hemisphere occurs when the Sun is farthest south for the year on December 21st.
Brightness, apparent size, illumination, distance from the Earth in astronomical units, and location data for the planets and Pluto on December 1st: Mercury (magnitude -1.1, 4.7", 99% illuminated, 1.44 a.u., Scorpius), Venus (magnitude -3.9, 9.9", 99% illuminated, 1.68 a.u., Ophiuchus), Mars (magnitude +1.0, 5.1", 92% illuminated, 1.83 a.u., Sagittarius), Jupiter (magnitude -2.2, 39.8", 99% illuminated, 4.95 a.u., Leo), Saturn (magnitude +0.5, 15.2", 100% illuminated, 10.91 a.u., Libra), Uranus (magnitude +5.8, 3.6", 100% illuminated, 19.67 a.u. on December 16th, Pisces), Neptune (magnitude +7.9, 2.3", 100% illuminated, 30.27 a.u. on December 16th, Aquarius), and Pluto (magnitude +14.2, 0.1", 100% illuminated, 33.71 a.u. on December 16th, Sagittarius).
During the evening, Mercury, Venus, and Mars can be found in the southwest, Uranus in the southeast, and Neptune in the south. Jupiter is the east and Uranus is in the west at midnight. In the morning, Jupiter is located in the southwest and Saturn in the southeast.
At midmonth, Mars sets at 8:00 p.m., Jupiter rises at 9:00 p.m. and transits at 4:00 a.m., and Saturn rises at 5:00 a.m. local time for observers at latitude 40 degrees north.
Mercury reappears low in the southwest during evening twilight at month’s end. The speediest planet is at aphelion and is in superior conjunction on December 8th.
Venus reappears low in the southwest during evening twilight in early December. The brightest planet is positioned six degrees south of the Moon on December 23rd and reaches aphelion three days later.
Mars enters Capricornus on December 4th and is at perihelion on December 12th. The Red Planet is six degrees south of the Moon on December 25th. Mars is located three degrees west of the brightest star in Capricornus, Delta Capricorni (magnitude +2.8), by the end of the month.
Jupiter is stationary and then commences retrograde (western) motion on December 9th. It is 5 degrees north of the Moon on December 12th. Double Galilean satellite shadow transits take place on December 9th, December 12th, and December 16th. Click on http://www.skyandtel...watching-tools/ or consult page 52 of the December issue of Sky & Telescope to determine transit times of the central meridian by the Great Red Spot. Data on Galilean satellite events is available at http://www.skyandtel...watching-tools/ and on page 53 of the December issue of Sky & Telescope. A number of mutual events of Jupiter's satellites take place this month. A number of mutual events of Jupiter's satellites take place this month. Information on those events can be found at http://www.cloudynig...occultations-2/ and page 52 of the January 2015 issue of Sky & Telescope.
Saturn is 1.5 degrees south of the Moon on December 19th. It is positioned 20 degrees above the southeastern horizon one hour before sunrise by the end of the month. On December 31st, Saturn’s rings subtend 35 arc seconds and are inclined by 25 degrees. For information on Saturn’s bright satellites, browse http://www.skyandtel...watching-tools/
Uranus is located 3.3 degrees south of the fourth-magnitude star Delta Piscium for the entire month. The sixth-magnitude K-type star 96 Piscium lies one degree north-northeast of the planet. Uranus is occulted by the Moon in some parts of the northern hemisphere on December 2nd and December 29th. Uranus is stationary and then resumes direct or prograde (eastern) motion on December 22nd.
During December, Neptune can be found less than one degree west of the fifth-magnitude star Sigma Aquarii. The eighth planet sets before 9:00 p.m. local time by the end of the month.
See http://www.curtrenz.com/uranep.html and pages 54 and 55 of the November issue of Sky & Telescope for additional information on Uranus and Neptune and page 51 of the November issue of Sky & Telescope for help on identifying some of their moons.
Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune can be found on page 51 of the September issue of Sky & Telescope and at http://d366w3m5tf081...eptune_2014.pdf
The dwarf planet Pluto is not visible again until next year.
Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) may shine at ninth-magnitude as it heads northwestward through Phoenix and Sculptor this month. The comet passes about one degree to the east of the edge-on barred spiral galaxy NGC 55 (magnitude +7.9) in Sculptor on December 18th. Visit http://cometchasing.skyhound.com/ and http://www.aerith.ne...t/future-n.html for additional information on comets that are visible this month.
During December, asteroid 23 Thalia glides northwestward through northwestern Taurus. It reaches opposition on December 3rd UT. The ninth-magnitude main belt asteroid passes directly by an eighth-magnitude field star on the night of December 11th. For information on this year’s bright asteroids and upcoming asteroid occultation events, consult http://www.curtrenz.com/asteroids and http://asteroidoccultation.com/ respectively.
Click on http://astrocast.tv/ for an informative video on astronomical events taking place this month.
The famous eclipsing variable star Algol (Beta Persei) is at a minimum, decreasing in magnitude from +2.1 to +3.4, on December 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 21st, 24th, 27th, and 30th. Consult http://www.skyandtel...a_of_Algol.html for the times of the eclipses. For more on Algol, see http://stars.astro.i.../sow/Algol.html and http://www.solstatio...ars2/algol3.htm
One hundred and five binary and multiple stars for December: Gamma Andromedae, 59 Andromedae, Struve 245 (Andromeda); Struve 362, Struve 374, Struve 384, Struve 390, Struve 396, Struve 400, Struve 419, Otto Struve 67 (Camelopardalis); Struve 191, Struve Iota Cassiopeiae, Struve 263, Otto Struve 50, Struve 283, Struve 284 (Cassiopeia); 61 Ceti, Struve 218, Omicron Ceti, Struve 274, Nu Ceti, h3511, 84 Ceti, h3524, Lambda Ceti, Struve 330 (Cetus); h3527, h3533, Theta Eridani, Rho Eridani, Struve 341, h3548, h3565, Tau-4 Eridani, Struve 408, Struve 411, h3589, h3601, 30 Eridani, 32 Eridani (Eridanus); h3478, h3504, Omega Fornacis, Eta-2 Fornacis, Alpha Fornacis, See 25, Xi-3 Fornacis, h3596 (Fornax); Struve 268, Struve 270, h1123, Otto Struve 44, h2155, Nu Persei, Struve 297, Struve 301, Struve 304, Eta Persei, Struve 314, Otto Struve 48, Tau Persei, Struve 331, Struve 336, Es588, Struve 352, Struve 360, Struve 369, Struve 382, Struve 388, Struve 392, Struve 410, Struve 413, Struve 425, Otto Struve 59, Struve 426, 40 Persei, Struve 434, Struve 448, Es277, Zeta Persei, Struve 469, Epsilon Persei, Es878 (Perseus); Struve 399, Struve 406, Struve 401, Struve 422, Struve 430, Struve 427, Struve 435, 30 Tauri (Taurus); Epsilon Trianguli, Struve 219, Iota Trianguli, Struve 232, Struve 239, Struve 246, 10 Trianguli, Struve 269, h653, 15 Trianguli, Struve 285, Struve 286, Struve 310 (Triangulum)
Notable carbon star for December: U Camelopardalis
One hundred deep-sky objects for December: NGC 891 (Andromeda); IC 342, K6, St23, Tom 5 (Camelopardalis); Be65, IC 1848, K4, Mel15, NGC 896, NGC 1027, St2, Tr3 (Cassiopeia); M77, NGC 788, NGC 835, NGC 864, NGC 908, NGC 936, NGC 955, NGC 958, NGC 1015, NGC 1016, NGC 1022, NGC 1042, NGC 1052, NGC 1055, NGC 1087, NGC 1094 (Cetus); IC 2006, NGC 1084, NGC 1140, NGC 1187, NGC 1199, NGC 1209, NGC 1232, NGC 1291, NGC 1300, NGC 1309, NGC 1332, NGC 1337, NGC 1353, NGC 1357, NGC 1395, NGC 1400, NGC 1407, NGC 1421, NGC 1426, NGC 1440, NGC 1452, NGC 1453, NGC 1461 (Eridanus); NGC 1079, NGC 1097, NGC 1201, NGC 1292, NGC 1316 (Fornax I Galaxy Cluster), NGC 1317, NGC 1326, NGC 1344, NGC 1350, NGC 1360, NGC 1365, NGC 1371, NGC 1374, NGC 1379, NGC 1380, NGC 1381, NGC 1387, NGC 1398, NGC 1404, NGC 1406, NGC 1425 (Fornax); Bas10, Cz8, IC 351, IC 2003, K5, Mel 20, M34, NGC 869, NGC 884, NGC 957, NGC 1023, NGC 1058, NGC 1161, NGC 1245, NGC 1275 (Perseus I Galaxy Cluster), NGC 1333, NGC 1342, NGC 1444, Tr2 (Perseus); M45 (Taurus); NGC 777, NGC 784, NGC 890, NGC 925, NGC 949, NGC 959, NGC 978A/B (Triangulum)
Top ten binocular deep-sky objects for December: M34, M45, Mel15, Mel20, NGC 869, NGC 884, NGC 1027, NGC 1232, St2, St23
Top ten deep-sky objects for December: M34, M45, M77, NGC 869, NGC 884, NGC 891, NGC 1023, NGC 1232, NGC 1332, NGC 1360
Challenge deep-sky object for December: vdB14 (Camelopardalis)
The objects listed above are located between 2:00 and 4:00 hours of right ascension.