The Winter Solstice occurs on Dec. 21. The largest full moon of the year, the Great Moon, will be Dec. 3. Mercury will be visible in the morning sky early in December, and in the evening sky at the end of the month. Venus will be visible in the bright morning twilight early in the month, before drawing too close to the sun to be observed. Mars will be ascending into the morning sky, approaching Jupiter. Mars will be 5o south of the moon on Dec. 13. The following day Jupiter will be 4o south of the moon, with the moon, Mars and Jupiter all within 10o of each other. Jupiter becomes more prominent in the morning twilight throughout the month. The constellation Orion will be high in the sky around midnight each night, allowing you to see the Orion Nebula in Orion’s “sword”. This is one of the few nebulae you can see with the naked eye on a good night.
The Geminid meteor shower will occur between Dec. 4-16, with the peak occurring on Thurs., Dec. 14. Unlike most meteor showers, which result from comet debris, the Geminids result from the debris of asteroid 3200 Phaeton. This is one of the more spectacular meteor showers that occur during the year, with as many as 120 per hour occurring at the peak. The Ursid meteor shower, caused by remnants of comet 8P/Tuttle, will radiate from the region of the Little Dipper between Dec. 18-28, causing 10 meteors an hour.
Dec. 8, at 7:30pm, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre presents RASC National Secretary Charles Ennis, whose topic will be: RASC Observing Programs: explore the universe, explore the moon, Messier objects, Finest NGC objects, deep-sky challenge, deep-sky gems, solar observing, and the Isobel Williamson lunar observing program. These programs are all designed to assist the beginning astronomer to explore the sky and become familiar with the more common attractions of the night sky.
The Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC is now offering the explore the universe observing program to the public for free. This is open to both the public and members, and can be accomplished using nothing more complicated than binoculars. On completion you earn a certificate and observer’s pin. Contact the Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the national RASC site here for details: https://www.rasc.ca/explore-universe
Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.