Celestial events in the skies for the week of Dec. 26, 2017 – Jan. 1, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
Anybody getting a Christmas telescope has the Moon to get acquainted with all this week. Waxing from First Quarter to Full phase, there is no better object to hone your stargazing skills. Most telescopes are sold with three lenses in the ranges of a 25 mm, 10 mm and 6 mm. The higher the number the lower the power, so put that 25 mm in the telescope and experience 80-100x power. The 12-10mm lenses will give about 200x power, and that 6-4mm lens is almost worthless because it is too much power at close to 400x and the image is blurred and hard to hold steady. Use that low power to learn your telescope.
Tuesday, December 26
First Quarter Moon today. The oval to the upper right is Mare Crisium, Sea of Crisis, where several Soviet Union landers and rovers have been placed. Along the terminator of day and night near the center is the dark Mare Tranquility where Apollo 11 landed. Following along the terminator night-by-night is a wonderful experience in a telescope as new crater and mountain ranges are revealed. Even by the hour the line of sunrise on the Moon can show a new mountain peak or crater rim.
Wednesday, December 27
Another tip on that new telescope: It is important to understand all the motions the telescope can go through, so you are familiar with them in the night. A red flashlight, made with cellophane if need be, is essential to see the telescope focusing assembly and read star charts and a Moon map.
Thursday, December 28
Tonight, the Moon is in the head of Cetus the Whale, though the big constellation isn’t part of the Zodiac. Cetus is a classical sea monster of mythology, lurking along the south horizon. but today it is thought of as a whale.
Friday, December 29
The Moon is in Taurus the Bull, for two days, and a beautiful sight in binoculars or a telescope—not just tonight but all week. With a Moon map you can learn some names and features of this beautiful, alien world.
Saturday, December 30
Tonight, from the gibbous Moon is beside the 6-7 pm the gibbous Moon covers up the bright red star Aldebaran, and event called an occultation that will be seen in just the Northeast part of the United States. Aldebaran is the eye of Taurus the Bull and even if the Moon doesn’t occult the star from where you live, it demonstrates the beauty of celestial motion.
Sunday, December 31
The gibbous Moon will provide some extra light for the New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world. Orion will be standing over the crowd and brightest star Sirius will be a beacon in the south skies.
Monday, January 1
The first morning of 2018 has red Mars and golden Jupiter rising at 4 am and well placed in the eastern twilight. The planetary tandem is in the constellation Libra the Scales, with Mars ahead of Jupiter.