eNews

Home » Feed aggregator » Sources » eNews

The Sky This Month - December 2022

The Mars Show

Ever since the early telescopic observations made by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877 when Mars was in opposition at 56-million-kilometres away, he is said to have seen “canali” or canals on Mars. Seeing these features gave the impression of a possible civilization. Since then the red planet has been the focus of the search for ancient life and is also the base of science fiction writers and movie makers.

By the 2030s or 2040s, humans are expected to land on this fascinating world, looking for the possibility of life that might have once existed, even at the microbial level. After all, life is life. But Mars is now in the news for other reasons, it is now a very visible object in the night sky.

Appearing as a bright-orange object rising in the northeast sky about forty-five minutes after the sun sets in the west, Mars is nicely placed amongst the bright winter constellations of Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull, etc. If you are still not sure where to look, any smartphone astronomy app will guide you.

So why is it so bright? Earth orbits the Sun in 365 days whereas Mars does so in 687 days. Just like the passing lane on a highway, Earth (the blue car) catches up and overtakes Mars (the red car) every 26 months. This upcoming opposition will occur on December 8 at a separation of 82 million kilometres. Over the weeks after opposition, our distance increases as we leave Mars in our rearview mirror and it slowly fades. Every seventh opposition is super close such as back in 2003 and 2020. The next opposition occurs on January 15, 2025.

Because of its proximity to earth during this opposition, Mars will be at magnitude minus 1.9 and will not reach the brightness of Jupiter's magnitude 2.5 which has happened in the past, but it is still a treat to look at through a telescope. The challenge of seeing subtle land markings depends on earth’s turbulent atmosphere and “seeing” conditions which vary from night to night.

Be sure to look at Mars the night before on December 7 as the Full Cold Moon will cover Mars for a little less than one hour. All of Canada as well as much of the US except for Alaska and the Southeastern states will see an amazing occultation. During its monthly orbit around the earth, the moon moves its width every hour across the background stars. It covers stars as seen through a telescope for as much as an hour and in rare events, does so with bright planets. This should be a fantastic photo opportunity as the disappearance and later reappearance should be quite evident.

The night of December 13th into the morning of the 14th will be the peak of the annual Geminid meteor shower. The parent of this shower is the 5-kilometre-wide asteroid 3200 Phaethon. On moonless nights, the Geminids can produce about 120 meteors per hour. However, the 70% waning moon will rise at about 9:30 local time causing those numbers to diminish throughout the night. Even though, this is a fantastic shower to witness as meteors are striking our atmosphere at only 35 km/hr. These appear as slow, graceful, and sometimes colourful streaks with occasional bright fireballs.

December 21 will signify the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the south.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Thursday, December 1, 2022Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month - November 2022

Last Total Lunar Eclipse Until 2025

With memories of the last total lunar eclipse back in May still fresh in our minds, the Sun, Earth and Moon are once again lining up for a spectacular celestial show. In the early morning hours of November 8, we will once again have the chance to see magic in the sky with another total eclipse.

The earth plays a part in one or two lunar eclipses in a given year as the moon catches our planet’s shadow. Sometimes the moon is immersed in total darkness while other times is partial. There will be partial eclipses in the year 2023 and 2024 with about 20% and 15% of the lunar landscape covered respectively. Our next chance to witness the colourful total eclipse will occur on March 14, 2025.

This month’s event will be enjoyed in its entirety from Central, Mountain and Pacific times zones. Whereas Eastern, Atlantic as well as Newfoundland and Labrador will experience the moon setting while still eclipsed. If you have never seen this magical event, be sure to set your clocks and try your hand at photographing the eclipse. After all, pixels are free.

At 9 p.m. local time on November 1, the moon will be to the lower left of the ringed planet Saturn. Jupiter is seen high in the sky while orange-coloured Mars is rising in the northeast. It forms a nice triangle with the stars Capella in the constellation Auriga and Aldebaran or the eye of the angry bull Taurus. You will have probably noticed the brightening of Mars over the past weeks. It keeps getting brighter until its closest approach to Earth on December 8 and will shine at magnitude minus 1.86. The night before, the Moon occults Mars and will be something to see.  

The annual Leonid meteor shower takes place from November 6 to November 30 with the peak being on the night of the 16th into the morning of the 17th. The radiant or the area where the cometary debris of Comet Temple-Tuttle strikes our atmosphere is located in the “sickle” portion of Leo the Lion. Unfortunately, the 41% waning moon will rise just before midnight local time causing a bit of skyglow. A weak hour rate of 10 meteors per hour is predicted, far from the meteor storm a couple of decades ago.

This month’s new moon occurs on November 23. Be sure to set your clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning the 6th as Daylight Saving Time ends.

Newfoundland and Labrador Time
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 5:39 a.m. Moon enters the earth's shadow.
Total lunar eclipse begins: 6:46 a.m. Moon turns dark orange or red.
Greatest eclipse: 6:51 a.m. The eclipse moon begins to set in the west.
Total lunar eclipse ends: Moon ready set.
Partial umbral eclipse ends: Moon ready set.  

Atlantic Time
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 5:09 a.m. Moon enters the earth's shadow.
Total lunar eclipse begins: 6:16 a.m. Moon turns dark orange or red.
Greatest eclipse: 6:59 a.m. The eclipse moon begins to set in the west.
Total lunar eclipse ends: Moon ready set.  
Partial umbral eclipse ends: Moon ready set.

Eastern Time
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 4:09 a.m. Moon enters the earth's shadow.
Total lunar eclipse begins: 5:16 a.m. Moon turns dark orange or red.
Greatest eclipse: 5:59 a.m. Mid-point of the eclipse.
Total lunar eclipse ends: 6:41 a.m. Moon begins to leave the shadow as it sets in the west.
Partial umbral eclipse ends: Moon ready set.

Central Time
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 3:09 a.m. Moon enters the earth's shadow.
Total lunar eclipse begins: 4:16 a.m. Moon turns dark orange or red.
Greatest eclipse: 4:59 a.m. Mid-point of the eclipse.
Total lunar eclipse ends: 5:41 a.m. Moon begins to leave the shadow.
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 6:49 a.m. Moon exits earth's shadow.

Mountain Time
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 2:09 a.m. Moon enters the earth's shadow.
Total lunar eclipse begins: 3:16 a.m. Moon turns dark orange or red.
Greatest eclipse: 3:59 a.m. Mid-point of the eclipse.
Total lunar eclipse ends: 4:41 a.m. Moon begins to leave the shadow.
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 5:49 a.m. Moon exits earth's shadow.

Pacific Time
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 1:09 a.m. Moon will rise as the eclipse begins.
Total lunar eclipse begins: 2:16 a.m. Moon turns dark orange or red.
Greatest eclipse: 2:59 a.m. Mid-point of the eclipse.
Total lunar eclipse ends: 3:41 a.m. Moon begins to leave the shadow.
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 4:49 a.m. Moon exits earth's shadow.

Clear skies,

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Tuesday, November 1, 2022Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages