||December Skywatch Highlights|
|Date / Time:
||December is MARS' month to shine. The Red Planet reaches opposition on the 24th when Mars rises as the Sun sets & is visible all night. Six days earlier, on Dec. 18th, Mars will reach it's closest point to Earth (approx. 54.8 million miles away), as Earth catches up to Mars' slower, longer orbit around the Sun. While not as close as in the 2003 or 2005 approaches, Mars' disk will appear larger than it will for the next 9 years, and gleams brighter than any star, dominating the sky from dusk to dawn, in the constellation Gemini. On Dec. 23, look for the Full Moon near Mars and just Southwest of the "heads" of Gemini twins Castor & Pollux. SATURN rises by 12:30 A.M. on Dec. 1st, & 2 hours earlier by month's end. Regulus, the brightest star in Leo the Lion, rises about 40 minutes ahead of Saturn. Luminous VENUS, rises in the east around 4 A.M., 3 hours before the Sun. Hard to miss the brilliant planet, which is often mistaken for a UFO! Venus is viewable in the eastern sky through sunrise, in line with Virgo's brightest star Spica. A slim crescent Moon joins the pair on December 5th, a site well worth rising early to see. Watch for the Geminid meteor showers to peak on Dec. 14th & 15th (see notes below). December 21st marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, when the Sun reaches its maximum distance south of the celestial equator. For further details and a December sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium(bishopmuseum.org).
Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii
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