Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Home RSS

Touring the Skies By Jim Bonser (

November 30, 2018
Reinbeck Courier
Ps. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Only 1 month left of 2018. This has been a great year for watching the other members of our amazing Solar System wander among the stars. I love the times when 3 or more naked-eye planets are visible at once - especially if the temperatures are pleasant. When that happens, I use my “astronomer’s imagination” to picture the stars and planets I see with my eyes - the bright lights in the sky, against a drawing of the planets circling the Sun in my “mind’s eye”. This helps me to see past the illusion that all the stars and planets are the same distance away. We had a lot of opportunities to do that and it was a lot of fun for me and some of the people who joined me at our astronomy club’s public nights. I hope when you get out under the stars, you will attempt to make that mental adjustment and see the sky in “3D”! Nearly all of the planets have moved in their orbits to positions either behind the Sun from our point of view on Earth or they rise before the Sun in the early morning hours - a time when I seldom get to see them! Only Mars and Saturn are left in the evening skies and Saturn will not be visible much past the 15th when it is lost in the glare of the setting Sun. If the weather will cooperate with us, on Saturday evening, December 8th an incredibly slender crescent Moon will visit Saturn just 1 and a half degrees slightly below and to Saturn’s right. The Moon will only be about 3.5 percent lit - a very challenging target at dusk. I suggest going out between 6 and 6:30 and look toward the west-southwest about 10 degrees above the horizon. Look first for Saturn in the haze and then see if you can spot the Moon. Binoculars will definitely help, just be careful to wait until the Sun is below the horizon before you start scanning for them - even a dim red Sun is dangerous to view directly. Let alone through binoculars - don’t risk it! Mars still shines high in the south in the early evening skies of December. It will take a week for the Moon to make its way over to the Red Planet. Look for them to pair up on Friday, December 14th. By then the Moon will have grown to almost 1st quarter. If you are up before Sunrise this month, you will be treated to a nice string of bright planets. Highest and easiest to see is brilliant Venus, of course. Venus rises at about 3:40AM in mid-December, almost 3 and a half hours before Sunrise so it is quite high in the sky at dawn. Next in line is Mercury. Mercury rises at about 5:25AM or so around mid-month. Below Mercury, is a very bright Jupiter. Jupiter rises about a half hour later than Mercury at about 6AM. For those of you who enjoy meteor showers, the annual Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak in the early morning hours of December 14. The peak lasts quite a long time and it might be possible to see some that evening, as well. The moon sets close to midnight and you will see more meteors when the Moon is not up, but if you can position yourself in the shadow of a building, you can improve your chances if you can’t stay out that late. That’s all for this month. 2018 has been a great year for enjoying the planets, not so great for clear nights for doing astrophotography, but overall, a good year to be an amateur astronomer. Clear Skies!



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web