Celestial events in the skies for the week of Dec. 13-19, 2016, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
This is a week for Full Moon, which Native Americans called the Cold Moon and Colonial settlers called the Yule Moon. Though moonlight seems bright, the Moon reflects only 17 per cent of the sunlight that strikes it—which is about like a lump of coal. The best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, peak this Tuesday and Wednesday night at the worst time possible when the Moon is full phase. After midnight you might see between 5-10 bursting through the moonlight, instead of the 50-130 meteors an hour during moonless years.
Tues. Dec. 13
Full Moon today is above Orion the Hunter and inside the borders of Taurus the Bull. The landscape is beautiful under the silvery moonlight, often creating surreal imagery.
Wed. Dec. 14
In 1972, this was blast off day from the Moon for Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt. They linked up to the command module piloted in lunar orbit by astronaut Ron Evans. Their booty was about 250 pounds of rock and soil form the Moon. It is now 44 years since American footprints walked the chalky dust of the lunar surface.
Thurs. Dec. 15
The north constellations are highlighted by Cassiopeia the Queen, whose five brightest stars now look like an “M” branded in the sky. To the left is Polaris the North Star in Ursa Minor. Ursa Major is scrapping the northern horizon, the famous seven stars being called The Plough in Great Britain.
Fri. Dec. 16
Before the Moon rises around 9 pm, there is three hour of darkness for the stars to play. In the evening twilight, planet Venus blazes away in the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat while to the left is red Mars in Aquarius.
Sat. Dec. 17
On this 1903 date in history on a beach at Kitty Hawk, NC, Orville Wright flew the airplane he and his brother Wilbur built in Dayton, Ohio.
Sun. Dec. 18
Jupiter rises at 3 am in the east among the stars of Virgo, and it is a beautiful yellow beacon before the morning twilight drowns it out. Early morning risers see the stars that are visible in Spring evenings.
Mon. Dec. 19
For that two brief hours of deep twilight and early evening, the Milky Way is visible standing straight up in the west between Vega, in Lyra the Harp, and Altair, in Aquila the Eagle. It is an interesting part of the sky as seen through any binoculars.