It’s a wonderful sky
setting after the sun. The planet will rise up a little higher in the sky each night this month.
On New Year’s Eve, the crescent moon will be just above the bright planet.
The planet Saturn is rising before midnight, and if you look at the planet with a telescope, you will discover that the rings are almost missing. The rings have been closing up for a while now. They appear to close up because of the angle at which we are looking at them. Since the orbits are inclined with respect to each other, sometimes we are riding above or below the rings and we see the rings. Every 13 years, we are aligned so that we are looking straight on and the thin rings change to just a dark line across the planet.
The sun reaches its lowest point in the sky, the winter solstice, on Dec. 21. It is 23.5 degrees below the equator.
In June the sun is the same height above the equator and this is called the summer solstice. The sun is on the equator in March and September which are the equinoxes, which means equal day and night.
So, if you get a good pair of binoculars, or even better a telescope for Christmas, I will talk about what you can see in the winter skies for the next few months.
Have a merry Christmas, and until next time, clear and dark skies.