December 2022 Astronomical Highlights
The Visible Planets
Mercury reappears along the southwestern horizon at sunset starting around the middle of the month. It gains elevation through the rest of December and can be seen with some difficult just to the upper right of the much brighter planet Venus after sunset on December 29. Binoculars will greatly assist you in viewing Mercury and Venus together. On December 21, Mercury will be at its greatest eastern elongation (20 degrees from the Sun).
Venus slowly appears out of the Sun’s setting light, low along the southwestern horizon, by around December 23. By the end of the month Venus stands much higher in the sky at sunset and should become very easy to see being how bright it is.
Mars reaches opposition on December 7 providing exceptional viewing of Mars all month long. With Mars at opposition, we see that bright red Mars (magnitude -1.8) rises in the northeast at sunset, traverses high in an arc above the southern sky through the night and sets in the northwest by sunrise. A very special event will take place on the night of December 7, an occultation of Mars by the Full Moon. This event will be visible from all of Alberta and will something to watch for. Mars will disappear behind the Moon from about 8:03 pm to 9:05 p.m. when Mars is seen high in the southeastern sky. This is the month this year to view Mars through a telescope as its angular size will be at its largest showing Martian features at their best! Visit the RASC/TWOSE observatory this month to see Mars at its best!
Jupiter is seen shining brilliantly above the southeastern horizon at sunset. It is located within the constellation of Pisces, the fish, all month long. Jupiter can be seen near the waxing gibbous Moon on the night of December 1/2 and then the waxing crescent Moon on the night of December 28/29. Jupiter sets in the west around local midnight time.
Saturn is found low in the southern sky at sunset. Situated amongst the faint stars of the zodiac constellation of Capricornus, the sea goat, Saturn will be the brightest object in the southern sky at sunset. Saturn sets about 4 hours after sunset along the southwestern horizon.
December 7 Full Moon (The Cold Moon)
December 16 Last Quarter Moon
December 23 New Moon
December 29 First Quarter Moon
International Space Station (ISS) Observable Passes
During the month of December there will be some favourable passes of the ISS as seen from Edmonton. From December 1 to December 10, the ISS will be visible in our early evening period. From December 18 onwards, visible ISS passes switch into our early morning sky before sunrise. Check the website http://www.heavens-above.com for exact viewing times for your location.
December 7 Special Event: Occultation of Mars by the Moon! Mars at opposition!
The occultation, where Mars disappears behind the Moon, takes place from 8:03 p.m. to 9:05 p.m. MST from Edmonton.
Special viewing opportunities at the RASC/TWOSE Observatory (weather permitting).
December 7 Apollo 17 (1972), 50th Anniversary of the launch of the last manned Apollo mission
December 12 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Edmonton Centre) Meeting Tonight.
7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. mix and mingle and 7:30 p.m.– 9:30 p.m. meeting
The RASC Meeting will be both an in-person meeting in the Zeidler Dome at the TELUS World of Science – Edmonton and on-line by Zoom. You can find the Zoom link at https://edmontonrasc.com/.
December 13/14 Geminid meteor shower peaks (Zenith hourly rate of 120)
Apollo 17 (1972), 50th Anniversary of the last walk on the Moon
December 21 Winter solstice occurs at precisely 2:48 p.m. MST
Mercury at its greatest eastern elongation (20 degrees)
December 22 Ursid meteor shower peaks
December 24 – January 8 School Christmas/Winter break
December 24 Venus 3 degrees north of the slim waxing crescent Moon
December 25 Merry Christmas!
December 29 Mercury and Venus are together in the southwestern sky (conjunction)
December 31 New Year’s Eve