MANITOBA SKIES – December 2019
Contributed by Ashley Hoeppner, Science Communicator
December is a great time to get outside and enjoy some beautiful sights in the winter skies. With the sun setting early in the evening, you don’t need to stay up late to take in the view.
One of the most famous of all winter constellations is Orion the Hunter. The slightly crooked H shaped constellation can be easily spotted in the south eastern skies a couple of hours after sunset. An easy way to find the constellation is to look for three equally bright stars that make up Orion’s belt, and these three stars can also be used to find your way to other great sights in the winter skies.
Using a trick that astronomers refer to as “star hopping” we can trace a line through the stars of Orion’s belt, and going down to the left we can find the brightest star visible in our skies, Sirius. Tracing the same stars upwards, you will the red star Aldebaran and the star cluster Pleiades, two easily found sights in the constellation Taurus the Bull.
WINTER METEOR SHOWER
Look up on Dec 13-14th for the annual Geminid meteor shower. This will be your best chance to see shooting stars this month. The moon will be just past full, so the light will wash out many of the fainter meteors, but it should still be a good show with perhaps 20 meteors per hour visible. Shooting stars will appear to stream from the constellation of Gemini the twins, but the Moon will be right in that part of the sky, so it’s best to look towards whatever part of he sky is darker. The best time to see shooting stars is after midnight on the 13th or very early in the morning on the 14th. No telescope or binoculars required!
Mercury is very close to the sun, visible low in East just before sunrise
Venus very bright can be spotted low in the West just after sunset
Mars visible early morning before sunrise in the East
Jupiter hiding behind the sun
Saturn low in the West just after sunset
DECEMBER 2019 SKY EVENTS
Thursday, Dec. 5 (evening sky): First quarter moon.
Wednesday, Dec. 11 (evening sky): Venus and Saturn will appear to be very near each other, low in the western sky as soon as it gets dark. Venus, the brighter of the two, should be easy to spot. Look for much fainter Saturn to the right and slightly above Venus.
Thursday, Dec. 12 (all night): Full moon.
Friday, Dec. 13 (7 p.m.) – The monthly meeting of the local astronomy club, the Winnipeg Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. For directions and details, visit the Winnipeg’s Centre’s page. Nonmembers are welcome to attend free of charge.
Saturday, Dec. 14 (predawn): The Geminid meteor shower peaks about 6 a.m. Manitoba time. Best viewing will probably be between 4.am. and sunrise.
Saturday, Dec. 21: – Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere occurs at 10:19 p.m. Central time. On this day we receive the fewest hours of daylight and the longest night. After the 21st the days will start to get longer as the Northern Hemisphere starts tilting towards the sun again. For details on this event and the impact it has had on human history, see the planetarium show Season of Light this month at the Planetarium at the Manitoba Museum.
Thursday, Dec. 26: New moon.
Saturday, Dec. 28 (evening sky): Venus will be just above the thin crescent moon in the southwest in the early evening sky.
To see when the International Space Station passes over southern Manitoba, click here.
You can find times for other locations across Manitoba and throughout the world, as well as times for other orbiting objects, by visiting Heavens-above.com and entering your location here.