New Moon Reporter - December 2011 Newsletter
Welcome to the New Moon Reporter! This newsletter is for observational amateur astronomers. It includes monthly astronomy highlights, special events, lunar calendar, planet and deep sky object observational tips as well as links to a constellation of the month. It's made available by AstronomyLog.com. Visit us for more great astronomy tips.
Best Dark Sky Weekend: New moon occurs on Christmas Eve, the last Saturday of the month. The best weekend for observing all night is Dec 23-24.
Best of the Planets: This month we have great choice of planets to view in the evening sky. Four will be visible before midnight and a fifth will appear at the witching hour.
Constellations of the Month: Two constellations are highlighted this month, both show off deep sky objects outside the Milky Way. Learn more about Indus and Andromeda below.
Remember to record what you've found at AstronomyLog.com.
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There are two weeks best for observing Luna, during the First Quarter (evening moon) and Last Quarter (morning moon). Observing deep sky objects is best when the moon is below the horizon. For evening observing, this is near the Last Quarter and New Moons.
- Last quarter on December 2
- Full on December 10
- First quarter on December 17
- New moon on December 24
There's something to observe every night of the month. Enjoy!
Jupiter rises before sunset and will be visible until just before sunrise. You could view it any time of the night but save it for last because its brightness will ruin your night vision. Watch it over several nights to see the dance of the four bright Galilean moons.
Uranus and Neptune are both visible this month, if you know where to look. Uranus is in Pisces at magnitude 5.8. Neptune is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9. Look for Neptune early in the month because it is close to the horizon. Here is a finder chart (printable) for both planets. They are visible in binoculars with darks skies.
Saturn rises before Sun each day this month, increasing its lead as the month progresses. Look for it in the constellation Virgo. See this finder chart (printable) for help locating the ringed planet.
Also find Mercury leading the sun in the morning, but only during the last half of the month. You will find it in the constellation Ophiucus.
Pluto is all but invisible as it reaches conjunction with the sun on December 28-29.
Constellation Focus – Indus and Andromeda
The constellation Indus is a modern invention by northern observers who visited the southern hemisphere and began charting the sky for the first time in the 16th century. It was named for the indigenous inhabitants of the New World that were misnamed by European explorers while making the discovery that later was called America. Learn about the observable galaxies in Indus by following this link.
The real treasure this month is located in the constellation Andromeda. The object furthest away yet still visible naked eye is the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s so big it will exceed the field of view of most binoculars. With a telescope, it’s not difficult to find the two small satellite galaxies of the big galaxy. All three are in the Messier catalog described below. Get a finder chart and more by following this link.
Constellation Hunter: Both northern and southern observers can find Andromeda. Its distinctive asterism is a large “V” whose vertex is at the northeast corner of the Great Square of Pegasus.
Messier: Mark three objects on your Messier list by finding the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and it two satellite galaxies (m32 and M110) located very close by. Only M31 is visible with binoculars but with the wide field of view of a low power eye piece in your telescope it is possible to see all three in the same view.
Don't forget to log your finds at AstronomyLog.com.
This is issue #9, December 2011 of the New Moon Reporter.
New Moon Reporter is the monthly newsletter of AstronomyLog.com. It is distributed to members of our online community for no charge. Enjoy!
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