Astronomy Guide December 2022



Dear Stargazer Friends,

I hope you and your loved ones have been well. It’s quite incredible, but we are already approaching December. Time has passed so fast. 

This year was a bit of a mixed bag, with great moments, hiking in the Swiss Alps, many beautiful strolls with our Cocker Spaniel, having great people over and meeting new people, some great astrophotography-sessions. The hardest part in 2022 was accepting that my Dad is ill. He was always such an inspiration to me, with his kindness, sense of humor, his knowledge about the night sky, aviation, physics. A lifelong learner and brilliant mind. He is still around, and we try everything to make him smile every time we meet, and to think of him of how he was, while trying to accept the situation. Found out I can even bring our Cocker Spaniel and last Sunday, everyone including the dog, was so happy to meet again!

Now, astronomically speaking, December will be delightful. Of course, we’ll have Winter Solstice on 21 December 2022 at 2148 UTC (2248 CET). What will be great to observe – always weather permitting – is Mars. It will reach opposition on 8 December. That same day (in Bern a bit after 0600 h), there will be a lunar occultation of Mars. Times vary so check your local time. Mars will reach maximum magnitude on 7 December (-2.0). 

Towards the end of December, Venus will make a comeback as an evening object. If you have a true horizon, look SW starting 20 December, low above the horizon, to observe it. In December, you’ll also be able to see the “Winter Hexagon” with 6(+1) 1st-magnitude stars. It’s also the time of the Orion Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula and many other fascinating deep sky objects. 

Wishing you all a peaceful and inspiring Holiday Season. Weather permitting, look at the stars, it’s so inspiring!

Clear skies & best wishes.

Isa 

IC 1805 H-alpha 5x600s 5.11.2022

Moon phases December 2022

Times CET

PhaseDate
Full Moon (Cold Moon/Long Nights Moon)08 Dec, 05:08
Third Quarter16 Dec, 09:56
New Moon23 Dec, 11:16
First Quarter30 Dec, 02:20

Meteor Showers

Geminids19 Nov – 24 Dec 2022Peak: 13-14 Dec 2022, the Moon will be 72% full.  Usually the strongest meteor shower of the year – weather permitting! The meteors are also visible in the southern hemisphere at a reduced rate.   Parent object is quite “a mystery”. It seems to be Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The Geminids are thus the only meteor shower to have an asteroidal parent body (all other meteor showers have a cometary origin). More information on NASA’s “Asteroid Phaethon” Site https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/lunar/phaethon.html 
Ursids13 Dec – 24 Dec 2022A northern hemisphere only event. Parent Object is Comet 8P/Tuttle Next Peak – The Ursids will next peak on the Dec 21-22, 2022 night. On this night, the moon will be 3% full. Radiant is circumpolar near the star Beta Ursae Minoris (Kochab) in the constellation Ursa Minor. Can be observed all night.
Quadrantids26 Dec 2022– 16 Jan 2023Weather permitting, look for the first meteors towards the end of December. Peak will be from 3-4 January 2023 (the Moon will be 92% full).  The Quadrantids often produce bright fireballs. They are not visible from the southern hemisphere. Radiant point is in the constellation of Boötes. Parent Object is Asteroid 2003 EH. It’s a mid-sized Amor-class Asteroid, classified as a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA).

Sources: 

American Meteor Society https://www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/meteor-shower-calendar/

“Kosmos Himmels-Jahr 2022”, Hans-Ulrich Keller, Stuttgart, 2021.

Spacereference.org https://www.spacereference.org/asteroid/196256-2003-eh1

Planets

For your local times check https://in-the-sky.org

Mercury will be visible for a short time from 20 to 26 December. But, it will depend on your horizon. If you have a true horizon, chances are, you will see it looking SW at dusk, ideally with at least binoculars. With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to observe Venus nearby on 26 Dec.

Venus will be back towards the end of the month as an evening object. It really depends on your horizon – same as for Mercury. If you have a true horizon, you should see our closest planetary neighbor for the first time on 20 Dec low on the horizon (SW).

Mars appears in the constellation of Taurus and is visible all night. It will reach opposition, i.e. it will be opposite the Sun, on 8 December 2022. That same day (in Bern a bit after 0600 h), there will be a lunar occultation of Mars. Times vary so check your local time. Mars will reach maximum magnitude on 7 December (-2.0). On 22 December, it will appear 8° north of the variable star Aldebaran – the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus (α Tauri).

Jupiter is still in Pisces and is visible in the evening with a bit of less magnitude, but still very prominent. On 2 and 29 December, the waxing Moon will pass south of Jupiter. 

Saturn still appears in the constellation of Capricornus. It will be visible in the early evening hours. On 26 December, the waxing crescent Moon will pass at 4.5° south of Saturn. Should be a lovely sight.

Uranus remains visible almost all night in the Constellation of Aries. 

Neptune still appears in the constellation of Aquarius during the first part of the night. It will set earlier and earlier as the month progresses.

Phenomena not to miss in December

Except for Perseus, the autumn constellations have now all already passed the meridian (N/S) in the evening. Perseus is visible almost at the Zenith. It’s a fascinating constellation worthwhile to be observed now. In the northwest, Vega is shining bright and further west, Daneb in the constellation of Cygnus can still be observed – a reminder of last summer and autumn. Altair is not visible anymore in the evening, so the “summer triangle” has vanished now. High up in the south, Aries has passed the meridian. Over 2’000 ago, Spring Equinox was in the constellation of Aries, it is still called “the First Point of Aries”.

Look east for the winter constellations. You’ll now see the Winter Hexagon with (it’s not a constellation but an “asterism”) six 1st-magnitude stars: Rigel (Orion), Aldebaran (Taurus), Capella (Auriga), Pollux (Gemini), Procyon (Canis Minor), Sirius (Canis Major), and of course another 1st-magnitude star, Betelgeuse (Orion). Weather permitting, this is a truly fascinating sight, one of the most breathtaking, I think. Sirius is actually the brightest star in the night sky. Its name is derived from Greek word Σείριος, meaning “glowing”. It’s a binary star and it’s quite possible to take a picture of Sirius and his companion (see below). Sirius A is twice as massive as the Sun. It’s a beautiful sight in any case. For more phenomena to observe in December check the tables below.

Sirius A (and B)

Bright double stars

All tables for 15 Dec 2022 at around midnight

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.Set
Polaris1.9521h52m+47°36’10.45″
Mirfak1.7522h17m+86°57’34.21″
Aldebaran0.8516h10m23h29m+59°36’25.74″6h48m
Capella0.050h10m+89°04’20.29″
Bellatrix1.6017h46m0h18m+49°26’11.13″6h50m
Elnath1.6515h50m0h20m+71°41’00.83″8h49m
Alnilam1.6518h30m0h29m+41°52’59.31″6h28m
Alnitak1.8518h38m0h34m+41°08’25.81″6h30m
Betelgeuse0.4518h12m0h48m+50°28’36.92″7h25m
Menkalinan1.900h53m+88°00’04.78″
Mirzam1.9520h32m1h16m+25°07’12.80″5h59m
Alhena1.9018h13m1h31m+59°26’28.50″8h49m
Sirius-1.4520h49m1h38m+26°20’15.90″6h27m
Adhara1.5022h12m1h52m+14°06’49.13″5h31m
Castor1.9017h35m2h28m+74°53’36.41″11h22m
Procyon0.4020h06m2h33m+48°13’59.20″8h59m
Pollux1.1518h14m2h39m+71°01’38.63″11h03m
Alphard1.9522h55m4h21m+34°19’06.62″9h47m
Regulus1.3522h06m5h02m+54°55’06.94″11h59m
Dubhe2.005h58m+75°19’14.42″
Alioth1.757h48m+81°06’22.08″
Deneb1.2515h33m+88°24’12.39″
Source: Stellarium.org

Bright nebulae

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.Set
M 45 (Pleiades)1.2014h39m22h40m+67°14’11.52″6h40m
NGC 1432 (Maia Nebula)3.8814h38m22h39m+67°19’11.89″6h40m
M 42 (Great Orion Nebula)4.0018h47m0h28m+37°41’50.79″6h09m
NGC 7000 (North America Nebula)4.0015h50m+87°27’46.41″
IC 1396 (Elephant’s Trunk Nebula)3.5016h30m+79°21’24.71″
vdB 203.7114h37m22h38m+67°14’02.07″6h38m
vdB 232.8714h40m22h40m+67°13’27.96″6h41m
vdB 1563.626h04m17h54m+85°29’23.83″5h44m
Ced 18b3.9413h40m22h37m+75°23’52.15″7h35m
Ced 19o (Atlas Nebula)3.8014h42m22h42m+67°10’31.85″6h42m
Ced 451.7017h46m0h18m+49°26’39.06″6h50m
Ced 55r (Orion Loop Nebula)1.9118h25m0h38m+45°07’13.22″6h51m
Ced 982.4322h40m2h17m+13°46’42.98″5h54m
Ced 176a2.324h35m15h00m+82°54’41.86″1h25m
Ced 176b2.325h27m16h04m+83°31’19.84″2h41m
Source: Stellarium.org

Herschel 400 Objects

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.Set
NGC 1296.5019h22m+76°36’15.38″
NGC 225 (Sailboat Cluster)7.0019h36m+75°02’57.26″
NGC 457 (Dragonfly Cluster)6.4020h12m+78°32’18.92″
M 33 (Triangulum Galaxy)5.7211h41m20h26m+73°49’31.28″5h11m
NGC 654 (Fuzzy Butterfly Cluster)6.5020h37m+74°56’54.17″
NGC 659 (Yin-Yang Cluster)7.9020h37m+76°09’44.83″
NGC 663 (Lawnmower Cluster)7.1020h39m+75°35’53.92″
NGC 7525.7010h55m20h50m+80°56’10.25″6h45m
NGC 869 (Double Cluster)3.8021h12m+79°42’32.34″
NGC 884 (Double Cluster)3.8021h15m+79°42’46.52″
NGC 10276.7021h36m+75°12’59.04″
NGC 1342 (Little Scorpion Cluster)6.7012h35m22h25m+80°29’23.33″8h14m
NGC 14446.6022h43m+84°12’53.05″
NGC 1502 (Jolly Roger Cluster)6.9023h01m+74°33’08.14″
NGC 1528 (m & m Double Cluster)6.4023h09m+85°38’21.00″
NGC 1545 (m & m Double Cluster)6.2023h14m+86°35’27.42″
NGC 1647 (Pirate Moon Cluster)6.4016h07m23h39m+62°12’25.15″7h11m
NGC 1664 (4-H cluster)7.6023h44m+86°42’04.47″
NGC 1817 (Poor Man’s Double Cluster)7.7016h45m0h05m+59°46’45.11″7h25m
NGC 18577.0013h58m0h13m+82°22’02.73″10h29m
NGC 1980 (The Lost Jewel of Orion)2.5018h49m0h28m+37°10’26.00″6h07m
NGC 21296.7016h59m0h54m+66°22’55.13″8h50m
NGC 2169 (The 37 Cluster)5.9017h55m1h02m+57°02’58.21″8h08m
NGC 2232 (Double Wedge Cluster)3.9019h37m1h20m+38°18’05.05″7h04m
NGC 2244 (Rosette Nebula)4.8019h00m1h25m+47°59’33.91″7h51m
NGC 22517.3018h47m1h28m+51°24’52.34″8h09m
NGC 2264 (Christmas Tree Cluster)3.9018h47m1h34m+52°56’18.08″8h22m
NGC 2281 (Broken Heart Cluster)5.4014h52m1h42m+84°06’21.58″12h32m
NGC 22867.5019h50m1h41m+39°53’31.48″7h31m
NGC 2301 (Hagrid’s Dragon Cluster)6.0019h39m1h45m+43°30’08.91″7h51m
NGC 23357.2020h39m2h00m+33°00’51.95″7h20m
NGC 2343 (Doublemint Cluster)6.7020h43m2h01m+32°25’31.18″7h19m
NGC 2353 (Avery’s Island)7.1020h48m2h08m+32°46’17.71″7h27m
NGC 23546.5022h07m2h07m+17°22’31.03″6h08m
NGC 2360 (Caroline’s Cluster)7.2021h16m2h11m+27°24’03.84″7h05m
NGC 2362 (τ CMa Cluster)4.1022h07m2h12m+18°06’20.67″6h17m
NGC 23958.0019h16m2h21m+56°36’03.80″9h25m
M 474.4021h30m2h30m+28°32’55.70″7h30m
NGC 24236.7021h28m2h30m+29°09’31.65″7h33m
NGC 24827.3022h39m2h48m+18°46’56.30″6h57m
NGC 24897.9023h18m2h49m+12°59’54.26″6h21m
NGC 25067.6021h36m2h53m+32°14’45.53″8h10m
NGC 25276.5023h13m2h58m+14°54’05.02″6h43m
NGC 2539 (The Dish Cluster)6.5021h56m3h04m+30°11’42.36″8h12m
M 485.8021h28m3h07m+37°15’17.84″8h46m
NGC 25677.4023h44m3h12m+12°24’50.38″6h39m
NGC 25717.0023h38m3h12m+13°17’56.71″6h46m
NGC 6866 (Kite Cluster)7.6014h55m+87°16’14.35″
NGC 6910 (The Inchworm Cluster)7.404h29m15h14m+83°53’56.76″1h59m
NGC 6939 (Ghost Bush Cluster)7.8015h22m+76°12’47.18″
NGC 7000 (North America Nebula)4.0015h50m+87°27’46.41″
NGC 7160 (Swimming Alligator Cluster)6.1016h45m+74°14’29.71″
NGC 7209 (Star Lizard Cluster)7.7016h57m+89°33’46.76″
NGC 72436.4017h07m+86°55’38.91″
NGC 7380 (The Wizard Nebula)7.2017h39m+78°41’48.18″
NGC 7510 (The Dormouse Cluster)7.9018h03m+76°15’22.38″
NGC 76865.6018h22m+87°37’51.53″
NGC 7789 (Caroline’s Rose Cluster)6.7018h49m+80°06’40.40″
Source: Stellarium.org

Messier Objects

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.Set
M 40 (Winnecke 4)9.657h16m+78°59’21.33″
M 45 (Pleiades)1.2014h39m22h40m+67°14’11.52″6h40m
M 1108.078h20m19h33m+84°50’47.55″6h45m
M 328.088h47m19h35m+84°01’42.28″6h23m
M 31 (Andromeda Galaxy)3.448h36m19h35m+84°25’51.19″6h34m
M 1037.4020h26m+76°10’48.69″
M 33 (Triangulum Galaxy)5.7211h41m20h26m+73°49’31.28″5h11m
M 74 (Phantom Galaxy)9.3913h13m20h29m+58°57’23.66″3h45m
M 34 (Spiral Cluster)5.2021h35m+85°52’39.39″
M 77 (Cetus A)8.8715h31m21h35m+43°08’55.31″3h40m
M 798.5620h09m0h17m+18°35’51.38″4h25m
M 38 (Starfish Cluster)6.4014h51m0h22m+78°55’43.52″9h53m
M 1 (Crab Nebula)8.4016h40m0h28m+65°05’22.59″8h16m
M 36 (Pinwheel Cluster)6.0015h16m0h30m+77°12’36.49″9h43m
M 42 (Great Orion Nebula)4.0018h47m0h28m+37°41’50.79″6h09m
M 43 (de Mairan’s Nebula)9.0018h47m0h28m+37°49’05.96″6h10m
M 78 (Casper the Friendly Ghost Nebula)8.3018h35m0h40m+43°05’32.95″6h44m
M 37 (January Salt-and-Pepper Cluster)5.6015h46m0h46m+75°36’53.33″9h45m
M 35 (Shoe-Buckle Cluster)5.1017h01m1h02m+67°23’17.98″9h03m
M 41 (Little Beehive Cluster)4.5021h10m1h39m+22°18’40.65″6h08m
M 50 (Heart-Shaped Cluster)5.9020h28m1h56m+34°42’18.75″7h24m
M 474.4021h30m2h30m+28°32’55.70″7h30m
M 466.1021h37m2h35m+28°13’10.53″7h33m
M 93 (Butterfly Cluster)6.2022h26m2h38m+19°11’15.16″6h49m
M 485.8021h28m3h07m+37°15’17.84″8h46m
M 44 (Beehive Cluster)3.1019h59m3h34m+62°38’46.78″11h09m
M 67 (Golden-Eye Cluster)6.9020h49m3h45m+54°46’40.77″10h41m
M 81 (Bode’s Galaxy)6.944h50m+67°59’47.31″
M 82 (Cigar Galaxy)8.414h50m+67°22’56.67″
M 959.7322h43m5h38m+54°38’46.92″12h33m
M 969.2522h45m5h41m+54°45’43.53″12h36m
M 1059.7622h42m5h42m+55°31’23.59″12h41m
M 97 (Owl Nebula)9.906h09m+82°02’58.78″
M 66 (Leo Triplet)8.9223h13m6h14m+55°55’39.88″13h15m
M 99 (Virgo Cluster Pinwheel)9.870h05m7h13m+57°20’58.36″14h21m
M 1068.417h13m+89°33’22.56″
M 100 (Blowdryer Galaxy)9.350h02m7h17m+58°45’17.52″14h32m
M 8510.0023h53m7h20m+61°07’21.06″14h46m
M 86 (Faust V051)8.900h19m7h20m+55°52’47.94″14h21m
M 94 (Croc’s Eye Galaxy)8.2420h56m7h45m+84°02’03.76″18h34m
M 64 (Black Eye Galaxy)8.520h06m7h51m+64°36’52.76″15h36m
M 63 (Sunflower Galaxy)8.5920h54m8h10m+84°56’31.78″19h26m
M 51 (Whirlpool Galaxy)8.108h24m+89°32’06.81″
M 36.200h10m8h36m+71°18’45.49″17h03m
M 101 (Pinwheel Galaxy)7.868h57m+82°41’51.06″
M 102 (Spindle Galaxy)9.8910h01m+81°15’42.21″
M 926.4012h12m+86°06’13.37″
M 29 (Cooling Tower Cluster)6.605h10m15h15m+81°38’55.25″1h20m
M 394.6016h23m+88°24’01.21″
M 52 (Cassiopeia Salt-and-Pepper Cluster)6.9018h17m+75°13’55.62″
Source: Stellarium.org

Other Sources:

Sky Event Almanacs Courtesy of Fred Espenak

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