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Kevin M. Berg

Astronomy News

In the News December

I missed this last month! Don't make the same mistake!
November 7th, Euclid is open for business!   On July 31st of this year, ESA's Euclid mission, a joint effort of 16 countries, including the USA, joined JWST and GAIA at the L2 point, and the ESA has just released Euclid's first images today.   Euclid is a wide-angle space telescope with a 600-megapixel camera to record visible light.   (Yes, 600!   Amateur astrophotographers, be jealous!)   Where Webb can observe extremely far back in time and zoom into the details, Euclid can go fast and wide.   Euclid will make a 3D-map of the Universe (with time as the third dimension) by observing billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years, across more than a third of the sky.   A near-infrared spectrometer and photometer will determine the redshift of detected galaxies. Only with such an extensive map of the large-scale structure of the cosmos can we pin down the characteristics of dark energy and dark matter, and possibly spot deviations from the laws of gravity as we currently know them.   See Euclid's November 7th release of first photos here.

A Morning Treat!
December 9th,Venus and the thin waning crescent Moon will make a beautiful pairing for visual and binocular observers. Look toward the South-East around 6:30am for their close approach. (Not quite a "conjunction", astronomers call the close proximity of objects like this morning's event an "appulse").

The Hunter is on the Prowl!
December 15th, by 10pm the great hunter Orion and his entourage of bright stars will fill the South-East sky.   What a treat on our annual journey around the sun as our night-time window opens into the nearest arm of our spiral Milky Way galaxy with its rich assembly of giant colorful stars.   How many bright stars can you find surrounding the red giant Betelgeuse, the shoulder of the hunter?   And don't forget to raise your binoculars to Orion's "sword" to observe the massive gas cloud there, the stellar nursery known as the Orion nebula.

What about the other Planets?
December 15th, one of those bright objects near Orion is not a star! That distant bright star that Orion's "shield" points towards is Jupiter which will be visible all night long.   By 9pm, Saturn will be too low on the horizon to observe; but you can catch an eyeful of Saturn as early as 6pm in the South/South-West sky.   Uranus is visible most of the night and Neptune is visible all night long. These two planets are star-like in an 8" telescope but it is still worthwhile to see them!   Mars' orbit still places it on the opposite side of the sun from Earth; Mars will not be easy to observe until the pre-dawn springtime skies.   Mercury makes its best showing of this cycle at sunset on December the 4th, but you will need a clear South-West horizon to see it.

It's all Uphill from Here!
December 21st, the day of the Winter Solstice, the day when the sun stops its apparent low-altitude descent, the day when the sun begins its rise to the heights of the Summer Solstice! Enjoy the sunshine... things are looking up!

December's Lunar Cycle:
The Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 5th, New Moon on the 12th, First Quarter on the 19th and the Full Moon is on the 26th.

On-Line Programs to enjoy on a cloudy night!
--Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Image of Aristarchus Crater released Dec 1st, 2022 LROC.
--The McDonald Observatory Archive of livestreams can be found Here.
--Lowell Observatory's most recent livestreamed program can be found Here.
--The STSCI lecture series archives can be found Here.

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