Dec 3rd: What’s Up Tonight! Southern Skies December Edition

By on December 3, 2014 in

Podcaster: Alice Enevoldsen aka Alice’s AstroInfo

Alices-Astro-InfoTitle: What’s Up Tonight! Southern Skies December Edition

Organization: Alice’s AstroInfo

Link :
Heavens-Above Starcharts for anywhere, anytime, not installation required
Stellarium Free planetarium-style program for your computer or tablet
7Timer – Clear sky charts (will it be clear enough for stargazing?). Input your location, then click on “ASTRO” in the pop-up.

Description: Presented as a counterpart to Awesome Astronomy’s Northern Hemisphere monthly forecast, Alice talks about what’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Focused at about 33°S, this forecast should work for anywhere between 25°S and 50°S

Bio: Alice Enevoldsen currently volunteers as one of NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors. She has been working in planetariums since 1996, has a B.A. in Astronomy-Geology from Whitman College, and a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. Her fascination with the stars led her to try her hand at astronomy research in Boston and Walla Walla, where she realized that her calling in life was actually to work in outreach and be a translator for scientists. Now she works hard to share her love of the stars and excitement about astronomy with as many people as possible.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2014, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at


Hello, I’m Alice Enevoldsen, coming to you not-so-live from Alice’s AstroInfo with a podcast about what’s up in the December 2014 skies … over the Southern Hemisphere.

How are you today? … looking forward to some holidays, or not so much? I am, especially the December solstice and the New Year. I’ll be holding my quarterly sunset-watch on Sunday, December 21st. Near me we have a park with stoneworks set to line up with the sunsets on the solstices and equinoxes, a bit like a miniature Stonehenge. You probably don’t have a park like that near you, but you can join my sunset-watch anyway by making your own stoneworks lined up in your yard, or by marking on a West-facing window with a sticker.

Let’s start today with some Notable Sky Objects and Events in December.

We’ve got a couple of spacefaring milestones at the beginning of the month: on December 1, Japan (hopefully) launched Hayabusa 2, which is a sample return mission to a nearby asteroid. Sample return missions are few and far between, and each one notably changes our understanding of the makeup of our solar system. So, I hope that launch went smoothly. (I record and submit these a little before you hear them, so I don’t yet know the outcome… but you do! I’m a time-traveler speaking to you from the past.) Anyway, Hayabusa 2 should be returning a sample of its asteroid to us in 2020.

Later but still at the beginning of the month, on December 6th, New Horizons is scheduled to wake from hibernation for the last time before it flies by Pluto in July. I have gotten so used to the long timeframe of missions to other worlds, that I’m simply floored that New Horizons is already within reach of its destination. It only launched in 2006 … about 8 years ago. Eight years to PLUTO. Do you know how far away Pluto is?! Well, use this for perspective: Cassini took seven years to get to Saturn. Pluto is more than four times further away from the Sun than Saturn, and that’s if you were traveling in a straight line, which just doesn’t work in the Solar System.

Midmonth, on December 13th and 14th the Gemenid Meteor Shower peaks. This will be a little less spectacular in the Southern Hemisphere but still visible in the middle of the night. Also, as the days get warmer it should be comfortable to stay out late watching for them. This is reputed to be the “strongest” shower of the year, but is often forgotten about by amateur watchers because it is so cold up here in the north. The Ursids, Quadrantids, and a handful of other showers are happening this month as well.

Moving on to the “Hey, what’s that?” section:

Just after sunset you’ll see Venus, off the teapot-handle of the constellation Sagittarius, and on December 23rd the crescent Moon will pass close by.

Mars will be notable in the sky in the dim constellation Capricornus, and throughout the middle of the night you’ll have the bright constellation of Orion, and the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, to keep you company.

Depending on exactly where you are, and you’ll have to be north of about 36S, Capella will be skating across the Northern Horizon. If you can see it, it is one of the flashiest stars to see near the horizon.

Later still, you’ll see Jupiter rising in the middle of the night.

Gemini, Cancer, Hydra, Puppis, Pyxis, Vela and Antlia join the lineup of Evening Constellations.

Those of you with Telescopes, great targets abound. Along with the Magellanic Clouds and the Tarantula Nebula, you’ve got the Orion Nebula, and two of my three favorite targets: the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades. For those of you without telescopes, I recommend digging a pair of binoculars out of your closet, or borrowing some from a friend, and taking a look at the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades. You don’t need much magnification to notice an incredible amount more detail in the Pleiades, and with the additional light-gathering power of the binoculars you’ll be slightly more able to notice the Andromeda Galaxy—the farthest thing visible to the unaided human eye. You heard me right, this is THE FARTHEST THING you will ever see with just your eyes. The photons from the Andromeda Galaxy have been traveling two-and-a-half million years to get to your eyeball. That means those photons left their galaxy at about the same time that humans were first forming stone tools.

Moving on, a quick overview of the upcoming Moon Phases:

The full moon on December 6th rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise. The next full moon is January 5th.

The last quarter moon is December 14th. For the week around the last quarter moon it is visible in the early morning sky.

The day of the new moon, December 21st or 22nd, you won’t see the Moon at all, but a day before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon as the Sun rises or sets, and a few days outside of that the Moon will be up all day.

The first quarter moon, December 28th or 29th, is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

Well! Thanks for tuning in: I hope I gave you some things for which to keep your eyes peeled

For those of you who haven’t listened before I’m here as a foil for Ralph and Paul with Awesome Astronomy and their monthly 365 Days of Astronomy podcast about what’s up in the skies over the Northern Hemisphere. I’ll be basing this podcast around 33°S, so it should be good anywhere from about 25°S to 50°S. This will include major cities in Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa, as well as the parts of South America south of Paraguay. Those of you living nearer the equator will have to combine both podcasts to figure out what’s most visible in your sky.

I’ll add some of my favorite planning links to the end of the transcript for you as usual. If you have suggestions, things that you’d like me to add to the “What’s up tonight, Southern Skies Edition,” please leave them in the comments!

Once again, I’m Alice Enevoldsen. You can find me online as AlicesAstroInfo on Twitter, Facebook, and

Bye! See you later!

Useful Links:

Heavens-Above Starcharts for anywhere, anytime, no installation required

Stellarium Free planetarium-style program for your computer or tablet

7Timer – Clear sky charts (will it be clear enough for stargazing?). Input your location, then click on “ASTRO” in the pop-up.

Monthly Sky Guides from Sydney Observatory

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astrosphere New Media. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at In the new year the 365 Days of Astronomy project will be something different than before….Until then…goodbye

About Alice Enevoldsen

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