Sky at a Glance December 2 – 9

Photo showing location of the constellations Lynx and Camelopardalis near Polaris.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 2 – 9 ~by Curt Nason

Many naturalists are also avid environmentalists and, hence, strong believers in recycling. For that reason, I don’t mind recycling versions of this sky report, so…

By 1930 the borderlines of 88 constellations had been set to cover the entire sky by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the overlords of all things astronomical. Many constellations were created by stargazers in Babylonia more than 6000 years ago, later to be adopted and expanded by the Greeks. Claudius Ptolemy’s second century treatise The Almagest included a star map which included 48 constellations, most of which survived the IAU. A few centuries ago many constellations were made up for the newly “discovered” skies of the deep southern hemisphere, and to fill in gaps in the familiar northern hemisphere. In New Brunswick we get to see all or parts of 66 constellations, but some are rather elusive.

Two of the gap-fillers lurk between the traditional autumn and winter constellations in the northeast these evenings, and they can be as difficult to see as their namesakes in New Brunswick. Stretching between Ursa Major and the Gemini-Auriga pair is a sparse zigzag of stars making the Lynx. Just as you are unlikely to see a lynx near urban areas, you need to be in a rural region to spot Lynx. Between Lynx and the semicircle of Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Perseus is the enigmatic and tough-to-pronounce-after-a-few Camelopardalis, which of course is a giraffe. With its head near Polaris, a critter this far north should have been a reindeer. Before you have a few, go out and see if you can locate them.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:42 am and sunset will occur at 4:34 pm, giving 8 hours, 52 minutes of daylight (7:44 am and 4:42 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:49 am and set at 4:33 pm, giving 8 hours, 44 minutes of daylight (7:51 am and 4:41 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full on Sunday, about 17 hours before perigee, making this the closest full Moon of 2017. Expect extreme tidal ranges early in the week. Mercury sets around 5:30 midweek, followed by Saturn less than ten minutes later. Mars is five degrees to the left of Spica this weekend and pulls rapidly away toward Jupiter over the week. Venus is rising after 7 am early in the week, heading sunward.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets at the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on Saturday, December 2 at 7pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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