EYES TO THE SKY: Bedazzling line-up of planets, stars; New Year’s Day supermoon

More Info
By Monday, Dec 25 Learning  1 Comment
Michael De Grasse/EarthSky.org
Michael de Grasse in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, caught the Dec. 3, 2017, supermoon with swirling wispy clouds in front of it. He wrote: “It was spectacular.”

December 25, 2017 – January 7, 2018

Mercury is considerably brighter than last week. Notice how the configuration of Jupiter, Mars and Alpha Librae has changed. Image courtesy Sky & Telescope

Mount Washington — It seems, by design, that the old year ends and the new year begins with bedazzling celestial events. From the bright lights of holiday celebrations, and from the warmth of our hearths and our beds, we are lured outdoors into the darkness to touch starlight, the light of planets in our solar system and our own moon. During winter-solstice time, we are challenged to reflect on the past and contemplate the future, and to be refreshed and to consider the world that sustains us. To begin with, there’s the lineup of planets Mercury, Jupiter and Mars in the morning sky. Their positions in the line change from one day to the next and can be seen as a time-lapse planetary dance, a new frame at the beginning of each day. Nearby, recognize Scorpius the Scorpion with Antares, its red heart star, along with other familiar stars and constellations of spring and summer nights, to know renewal.

The full Wolf Moon reigns on New Year’s Day. It is a perigean full moon, also known as a supermoon, i.e. closest to Earth in its orbit. Closer, and therefore larger than the December perigean full moon, the new year’s moon will be the largest full moon in 2018. Leading up to full phase over the upcoming weekend, look for the nearly full moon in the east-northeast as the sun sets in the southwest. On the 1st, don’t miss the supermoon rising in at 4:28 p.m. opposite sunset at 4:31 p.m.

Here’s a comparison between the Dec. 3, 2017, full moon at perigee (closest to Earth for the month) and the year’s farthest full moon in June 2017 at apogee (farthest from Earth for the month) by Muzamir Mazlan at Telok Kemang Observatory, Port Dickson, Malaysia. Image courtesy EarthSky.org

The year’s darkest days, the last of the shortest days of the year, end tomorrow, the 26th, with 9 hours, 6 minutes of daylight. While sunset will be about a minute later every day, noticeably lightening our afternoons as January begins, sunrise will be at its latest for the year, 7:22 a.m., between now and the 9th of January. Morning darkness will be at its extreme for two more weeks. This is welcome news for stargazers; we may sleep until 6 a.m., even close to 6:30 a.m., and still step outdoors to delight in reading current cosmic events when we lift our Eyes to the Sky.

Star map painting by Senior Wardaman Elder Bill Yidumduma Harney, featuring the Milky Way, the Moon and ancestor spirits. Image courtesy iau.org


About the Australian creator of the Star Map Painting – https://ydproject.com/index.php/about/yidumduma-bill-harney/

Opportunities to participate

Jan. 5, 6:15 – 8 p.m., 2018 – American Museum of Natural History, New York City, “Best Space Images of 2017 and All Time”: Free Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) lecture – https://asterisk.apod.com/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=37750

Feb, 9, 2018 – Application deadline for extraordinary summer teacher workshops. Scholarships available – https://mcdonaldobservatory.org/teachers/profdev

Return Home

One Comment   Add Comment

  1. Greg says:

    Your article was very informing.Now I can’t wait to see it. Thank you!

What's your opinion?

We welcome your comments and appreciate your respect for others. We kindly ask you to keep your comments as civil and focused as possible. If this is your first time leaving a comment on our website we will send you an email confirmation to validate your identity.