Podcaster: Shane and Chris
Title: Objects to Observe in the December 2022 Night Sky
Organization: Actual Astronomy
Description: The Actual Astronomy Podcast presents Objects to Observe in the December 2022 Night Sky and places a focus on how to get the most out of the Mars Opposition Occultation and the happenings overhead. This month we have several pairings between the Moon and Planets and we also talk about the asteroid Juno and a bright comet that may be on the horizon. We also introduce listeners to the constellation Orion.
Bio: Shane and Chris are amateur astronomers who enjoy teaching astronomy classes and performing outreach where they help the eyes of the public to telescope eyepieces.
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Welcome to Episode 279 of the Actual Astronomy Podcast, the Objects to Observe in the December 2022 Night Sky episode. I’m Chris and joining me is Shane. We are amateur astronomers who love looking up at the night sky and this podcast is for anyone who likes going out under the stars.
In this episode we’ll talk about what you can see in the night time sky this month. For those listening on the 365 Days of Astronomy if you look us up in your podcast directory like Apple or podcatching app you can subscribe and catch 8 episodes per month.
What are some easy ways people can get started in astronomy?
Size and distance using your fist
Keeping dark adapter with a red light
Getting a good reference like Nightwatch
Using binoculars – 8×40 or 7×35
Dec 1 – Juno Occultation –
3 Juno is a large asteroid in the asteroid belt. Juno was the third asteroid discovered, in 1804, by German astronomer Karl Harding. It is one of the twenty largest asteroids and one of the two largest stony (S-type) asteroids, along with 15 Eunomia. It is estimated to contain 1% of the total mass of the asteroid belt.
Juno (3 Juno) is the second largest stony S-type asteroid and the third asteroid ever discovered. It was identified on September 1, 1804 by the German astronomer Karl L. Harding and is named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of the chief god Jupiter.
Juno has the second most eccentric orbit for an asteroid over 200 km in length, bringing it at times closer to the Sun than Vesta, and at other times farther away than Ceres. Juno also has an unusually high albedo for an S-type asteroid, and can at times be brighter than Neptune. This explains why it was discovered before other larger asteroids in the main-belt. Infrared pictures show that Juno has an impact site half the size of the asteroid itself.
Juno is also the main body of the Juno family of associated asteroids all with the same albedo. This indicates that these smaller asteroids are probably composed of ejecta from Juno itself.
On 19 February 1985, Juno was the first asteroid for which an occultation was observed when it passed in front of the star SAO 112328.
Mars at closest approach
Dec 1 (and early on the 2nd) – Jupiter 3-degrees north of the Moon
Dec 7/8 – Mars at Opposition and Full Moon and Mars will be occulted by the Moon for most of NA and Europe
Dec 14 – Geminid Meteor shower Peak – Might be too Moony
The Geminids, which peak during mid-December each year, are one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers. But they did not start out that way. The Geminids first began to appear in the mid-1800s, but the first showers were not noteworthy, generating only 10 – 20 meteors per hour. Since that time, the Geminids have grown to become one of the most major showers of the year. During its peak, 120 Geminid meteors can be seen per hour. The Geminids are now considered by many to be the most consistent and active annual shower.
The Geminids are best viewed during the night and pre-dawn hours, and are visible across the globe due to a nearly 24-hour broad maximum. This shower is of the best opportunities for young viewers, since it starts around 9 or 10 PM. The meteors from this shower are slow moving, and usually peak around the 13th – 14th of the month.
The radiant – the point in the sky from which the Geminids appear to come – is the constellation Gemini, the Twins. The meteors travel at medium speed in relation to other showers, at about 22 miles per second, making them fairly easy to spot. The Geminids are bright and tend to be yellow in colour. The Geminids are also known for fireballs, larger explosions of light and colour that can persist longer than an average meteor streak.
Unlike most meteor showers which originate from comets, the Geminids originate from an asteroid: (3200) Phaethon. Phaethon takes 1.4 years to orbit the sun. It is possible that Phaethon is a dead comet, or a new kind of object called a “rock comet.” Phaethon’s comet-like, highly elliptical orbit around the Sun gives credence to this hypothesis. However, scientists are not certain how to define Phaethon. It does not develop a cometary tail, and its spectrum looks like that of a rocky asteroid. Also, the bits and pieces that break off to form the Geminid meteoroids are several times denser (2-3 gm/cc) than cometary dust flakes (0.3 gm/cc).
Dec 16th – Last Quarter moon
Dec 21 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation 20-degrees from Sun
Dec 21 – Solstice
Dec 22 – Ursid Meteors Peak
The Ursids are a meteor shower visible a few days before Christmas. They are associated with debris from periodic comet 8P/Tuttle. This is usually a weak shower, with only a handful of meteors seen each hour. This meteor shower is named for its radiant point, located near the star Beta Ursae Minoris (Kochab) in the constellation Ursa Minor. Ursid meteor activity begins annually around December 17 and runs until the 25th or 26th.
The Ursids were probably discovered by William F. Denning, who observed them for several years around the start of the 20th century. The first coordinated studies of this shower didn’t begin until Dr. A. Becvar observed an outburst of 169 meteors per hour in 1945.
Further observations from the 1970s to current times have established a relationship with comet 8P/Tuttle. Peter Jenniskens and Esko Lyytinen discovered that outbursts could happen when comet Tuttle was at aphelion, because some meteorids get trapped in a 7:6 orbital resonance with Jupiter.
The Ursids have a particularly narrow stream, prompting veteran meteor observers to comment that the Ursids “must be a compact stream like the Quadrantids. You have to be within 12 hours of maximum to see much.”
Dec 23rd new Moon
Dec 24th – Venus & Mercury 3 & 4-degrees North of Moon
DEc 26 – Saturn 4-degree N of Moon
Dec 29 – Mercury and Venus at closest – 1.4-degree separation and same night Jupiter is 2-degrees north of the Moon
Dec 30 – Double Shadow transit on the moon
But not for us…need to be up early and maybe in Japan.
Bright comet? C2022-E3 ZTF mag 7 by end of Dec. mag 5 by early January
Feature Constellation Orion
Orion is the brightest and probably best known constellation in the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere, Orion can best be seen in the winter towards the southern horizon. The three stars in Orion’s belt are a well known pointer to other nearby constellations. The upper part of Orion lies within the Milky Way. Orion’s belt runs through the celestial equator, the midpoint in the sky, so his figure is known to observers north and south of the Earth’s Equator.
Orion is seen marching across the winter sky, with his dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, following behind. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, lies just southeast of the hunter.
History and Mythology
The constellation Orion was listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD. However, it was recorded by the Babylonians as early as 686 BCE in the astronomical tablets MUL.APIN, as the SIPA.ZI.AN.NA, “the Loyal Shepherd of Heaven.” It has even been considered that the Belt of Orion may be represented in the cave paintings of Lascaux, which were made in approximately 15,000 BCE. Orion is so ancient that the constellation is part of the Sumerian narrative of Gilgamesh. The relative position of Orion in the sky sets the figure next to Taurus, and Orion is often depicted as facing off against the bull. Dating as far back as the 18th century BCE, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh pits URU AN-NA, meaning “the Light of Heaven,” against GUD AN-NA, “the Bull of Heaven.” The Light of Heaven represents the constellation we know today as Orion, and the Bull of Heaven represents the constellation now called Taurus.
Alpha Orionis, or Betelgeuse, is the eleventh brightest star in the sky. The origin of its name is uncertain, but its red color is easily seen. Betelgeuse is the nearest red supergiant star to our solar system, 425 light-years away. Betelgeuse pulsates irregularly between magnitudes 0.4 and 1.3 over a period of several years, but this is not noticeable to the casual observer. Its diameter also varies, from 300 to 500 times that of our sun. This instability shows that Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its life, and is due to explode as a supernova at any time – or may have done so already.
Deep Sky targets about from M42, 43, 78 to the Horsehead and many more NGC;s
Email from Wade
I have to tell someone and I thought you guys would appreciate the significance. Last night at a dark sky observing session, I saw Barnard 33, the HorseHead Nebula.
Paul ( I believe that was his name ), is another observer who had come around earlier in the night to introduce himself and chat. Randomly later in the night, he very causally walks over and calmly asks “does anyone want to see the horse head?”
“What, the HorseHead Nebula?” I asked in a surprised confusion. I got up with haste and called out to my buddies. Soon 4 other observers and myself were approaching his 20” Skywatcher motorised Dobsonian with Hydrogen Beta filter.
I climbed the step ladder and there it was. Faint and upside down, but very clearly there. On my first look I was occasionally and briefly able to make out the nose and mouth area, but on my second and third look it all blended together into one solid dark nub/protrusion blocking out the slightly brighter background. It was a challenge to try and pick out detail and I believe I rapidly fatigued my eye making subsequent views harder. The icing on the cake for me is that he happened to be using one of my favourite eyepieces, the mighty Baader Zoom!!! I’ve always considered it to be great on both solar system and deep sky objects, and if it can show the Horse Head, I really don’t think you are sacrificing too much using this zoom eyepiece.
This was an object I knew to be very challenging and had actually accepted that I would probably never see it visually. What an amazing treat this was and I feel very fortunate to of had this opportunity. Wishing you guys the same views, if you have not seen it already.
Thanks for listening, we’re always excited to receive listener questions or observing logs as we’re collecting those emails to email@example.com.
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