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Friday 15 December 2017  •   27 Yew Moon 2017

Viewing the night sky in Yew Moon 2017

19 November - 18 December 2017

Map of night sky at full moon: 3 December, 15:47 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Yew Moon 2017

On 24 Nov, Mercury reaches 21.99°E of the sun in the western evening sky. There is a good view from Earth’s southern hemisphere, and you should be able to see the less bright Saturn just to its right as well. From the north, the view is poor.

Venus grows harder to see in the dawn twilight during the course of the month.

Jupiter is next out from the sun in the morning sky, and gets brighter and further from the dawn during the month, as does Mars, further out yet. Mars is still over on the far side of the solar system, and is fainter than Spica, the bright star of Virgo. Mars passes 3°N of Spica on 29 Nov, unseen in Western Europe until they rise in the early hours of 30 Nov. Mars and Jupiter gradually move closer together, and on 14 Dec, the old moon is near the pair, with Jupiter much the brighter of the two planets.

From the northern hemisphere, you may just glimpse Saturn at the start of the month low down in the SW evening sky. The view is better from the south. The moon is nearby on 20 & 21 Nov.

Look out for the Geminid meteors around the night of 13 /14 December. 02:00 to 03:00 local time may be the optimum. The Geminids are fast becoming the best display, with maybe 150 meteors an hour on recent occasions. This year, their parent object, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, passes only 10.3 million kilometres from Earth on 10 December. How many meteors will follow it?

The month ahead: Birch Moon 2017/18

19 December 2017 - 16 January 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 2 January, 02:24 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Birch Moon 2017/18

Mars and Jupiter rise in the early hours, with Jupiter considerably the brighter of the pair. They continue to move closer until Mars passes twelve minutes of arc south of Jupiter on 7 Jan, a couple of hours before they rise in Western Europe. The waning moon is near Jupiter and Mars on the morning of 11 Jan.

Venus and Saturn are mostly out of view behind the sun, with Saturn passing behind the sun on 21 Dec, just a few hours after our solstice, and Venus passing behind the sun in the other direction on 9 Jan. Saturn peeks into the morning sky by the end of the month.

On 1 Jan, Mercury reaches 22.66°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky. The view from the northern hemisphere is quite good, and the Jupiter-Mars grouping further out from the sun point the way towards the difficult-to-see planet. The view from the south is not so good. On the morning of 13 Jan, if you have a good, clear eastern horizon, you may just be able to see Mercury 0.6°S of the fainter Saturn, with the old moon above. In the same conditions, you may be able to see the very thin, old moon alongside Mercury and Saturn on the morning of 15 Jan.

Look out for the Ursid meteors around 21 & 22 December, especially late at night. Unlikely to be visible from the southern hemisphere. Also look out for the Quadrantid meteors on the night of 3/4 Jan, though the bright moon is likely to make them hard to see.

William Morris
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