All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2016.


Nightscenes 2017 is now available and can now be ordered


Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire.  All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.


December 2016









































The visible planets & small worlds


For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.



Summary


Mercury is again very low in the solar glare for easy observation but look towards the SW around ½ hour after sunset on the 11th when it will be at Greatest Eastern Elongation from the sun at 21° but only a couple of degrees above the horizon. Better placed in the evening twilight is Venus and, higher along the ecliptic, Mars. From mid month there is also the possibility of a binocular comet low in the early evening sky, Comet 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova. Neptune, Uranus and Ceres are also well placed to view in the evenings as they lie further along the ecliptic. Vesta still lies close to the star cluster M44 in Cancer and rises after 9pm on the 1st  so is also becoming better placed to view in binoculars. Morning planets include Jupiter rising just before 3am on the 1st and later at the end of the month Saturn emerges into the bright morning twilight.


Main events


Dec-mars-venus.jpgLets begin with Venus and Mars as they are joined by the crescent moon at the start of the month. On the 2nd it layoff to the right hand side of Venus and amongst the stars of the Teaspoon asterism (not shown) then on the 3rd it lies above Venus for a lovely view. Next evening it forms a shallow triangle with Venus and Mars then lies to the upper left of the Red Planet on the 5th as shown here at right. Both Venus and Mars move appreciably over this period. On the 5th Mars, the Moon and Deneb Algedi, Delta () Capricorni form a nice triangle. The view here at right is set for 5:30pm looking roughly SSW as a guide to them.  




Dec-venus-comet.jpgBy mid month as Venus moves up through Capricornus so a comet hopefully begins to brighten into the range of 10x50 binoculars. Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova is shown on the chart (left) from Dec 15th to Jan 20th 2017. On Dec 15th it should be mag 9 and as it moves up into, and through, Capricornus it is expected to brighten to mag 6 by the last few days of December and into the first week of January 2017. We can but hope, as Comets are notoriously difficult to accurately predict how bright they may become. Note that although Venus is also shown, it quickly moves up out of this view and so will not lie close to the comet.  There is also another aspect that is difficult to show on a chart covering over a month. This part of the sky also drops down into the evening twilight (therefore lighter skies and so fewer stars visible) so that will also determine how long we get to view the comet. If the comet unexpectedly brightens then that will of course help matters!


Dec-mn-nep.jpgNeptune may be a fainter planet but this year it is having more fun than usual! It was occulted by the moon on September 15th and is again occulted by the moon on Dec 6th. However this time it is very low in the WSW just above the horizon with the chart (right) set for 10:30pm (mid UK). All parts of the UK/Ireland will see the disappearance but the Moon and Neptune set before Neptune reappears. The south coasts of England and Ireland want to be watching from at least 10:30pm whilst the very north of Scotland should begin watching the Moon creep towards Neptune from 10:15pm. InDec-mars-nep-ep-view.jpg a telescope you may notice a pair of ninth mag stars off to one side of Neptune and they too will be occulted so it is worth also keeping an eye on them.


You might think we've finished with Neptune and indeed Mars for the year but you'd be wrong. On the very last evening of the year Mars is in conjunction with Neptune as shown in the view at right which is a 1° field of view of a telescope. They will lie just under ½° apart!  Binoculars will show them very close together so look over towards the SW with Venus below left of them by several degrees at around 6:30pm.



Our Moon again occults some stars of the Hyades star cluster on the evening of the 12th and into the next morning it occults Theta1&2 Tauri then some parts see Aldebaran occulted so check the details on the occultation's button at top.

Dec-jup-mn-spica.jpg

Meanwhile there are two main Meteor showers this month. The Geminids Peak occurs the night of the full moon so are spoiled. However by the 22nd the moon rises just before 2:30am next morning so the evening into early morning will be dark and ideal top spot the peek of the Ursids Meteor shower.


That morning of the 23rd also sees the Moon lie close to, and forming a lovely triangle with, Jupiter and Spica so stay up later to watch them together as shown here set for 4am.








Here are just a few more things to look out for as we close out 2016 and get ready for 2017!




















  Clear skies and happy sky watching.



Paul




The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2016 AD

Dec-2016.jpg

The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st  at 10:44 UT. Winter officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere whilst Summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

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