Winter is now upon us with long nights for observation.
All the main constellations, Ursa Major,(the Plough), Orion and Cassiopeia are on view. Orion, the main constellation of winter, is getting higher in the sky and will be at its best in the New Year.
The Plough can be located in the northern sky. Capella, the bright yellow star, is not yet at the overhead point but it is very high up and cannot be missed. The twins of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, are much higher. Now is a great time to look for the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, which are in the sky, looking south. If you have good eyesight it is easy to see the seven brightest members of the Pleiades, using a telescope however you would discover that it is a jewellery box. There are in fact about two hundred and fifty stars in the cluster.
Of the summer triangle Altair is no longer visible, Vega is very low in the sky, and Deneb can still be found in the north west.
Venus the bright morning ‘star’ is still visible before the Sun rises, and Jupiter is still a morning object but is becoming much higher in the sky. In the new year, Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. Mars can also still be seen in the morning sky but only as a rather faint red looking ‘star’, and like Jupiter, Mars will be visible in the evening sky in 2016.
This month heralds the Geminid meteor shower, one of the most spectacular of the year. The night of December 13th to 14th, With clear conditions, around 100 meteors per hour can be observed from around 10 pm onwards. As the grains of dust are from an asteroid they are slightly larger than those from a comet, so the Geminids can produce many bright white coloured fireballs in the sky. Look up in any direction and you will be unlucky not to see at least one Geminid.
Phases of the Moon for December will be:- Last Quarter 3rd, New Moon , December 11 First Quarter, December18, Full Moon, December 25.
Remember to wrap up warm.