A busy morn­ing sky

Sky at Night Magazine - - DECEMBER -

WHEN: From 13 De­cem­ber on­wards

There’s an in­ter­est­ing gath­er­ing in the early morn­ing sky of two bright plan­ets, the Moon, an as­ter­oid and two comets. The plan­ets in ques­tion are Jupiter and Mars, both of which can be seen in the pre-dawn sky from the start of De­cem­ber on­wards, and the as­ter­oid is Vesta. It’s mov­ing on a path to the north of Jupiter and re­mains at 8th mag­ni­tude all month, so you’ll need at least a pair of binoc­u­lars to see it. The as­ter­oid is best po­si­tioned from the mid­dle of the month on­wards, when it will have crept away from the morn­ing twi­light and can be seen against the dark­est skies.

Fif­teenth-mag­ni­tude comet P/2010 H2 Vales is prob­a­bly bet­ter suited for astropho­tog­ra­phy. The comet is in­ter­est­ing be­cause it ap­pears to keep track with Vesta, trav­el­ling along a par­al­lel path just north of the as­ter­oid. It is best seen from 17 De­cem­ber on­wards, when it will be able to reach a higher po­si­tion against a darker sky. Mag. +10.4 comet 24P/ Schau­masse can also be seen in the vicin­ity, higher in the sky pass­ing through Virgo.

Be­tween 13-16 De­cem­ber, a wan­ing cres­cent Moon joins the party, form­ing an at­trac­tive ar­range­ment with Jupiter and Mars. The pres­ence of the Moon will make it hard to find comet 24P/ Schau­masse or pho­to­graph faint comet P/2010 H2 Vales, and we would rec­om­mend wait­ing for it to clear the area be­fore mak­ing an at­tempt. Any morn­ing af­ter 16 De­cem­ber from around 06:00 UT should be fine.

Mars and Jupiter ap­pear to con­verge to­wards the end of the month, ahead of a very close en­counter dur­ing the first week of Jan­uary 2018. The plan­ets ap­pear sep­a­rated by 24 ar­cmin­utes on the morn­ing of 6 Jan­uary and by just 14 ar­cmin­utes on 7 Jan­uary.

Ob­ject po­si­tions cor­rect for 06:00 UT on the dates shown; sky po­si­tion cor­rect rel­a­tive to the hori­zon for mid-De­cem­ber

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.