Jeffers Foundation

ASTRONOMY

Astronomy

December, 2017

The Big Blue Marble
The Big Blue Marble
This photograph of Earth, named The Big Blue Marble by NASA, was taken by the crew of Apollo 17 - the last manned lunar landing mission. It is widely regarded as one of the most iconic images of the Space Age. Taken five hours after the spacecraft launched on December 7, 1972, it shows all of Africa and most of Antarctica. Although 32 unmanned spacecraft have been sent to the Moon since this picture was taken, no humans have visited in the past 45 years.

Morning Stars

Mercury enters the morning sky on December 13, but is too close to the Sun to observe until December 20. Then you can find it five to eight degrees above the southeastern horizon 45 minutes before sunrise. Mars rises four-and-one-quarter hours before the Sun. Look for it 27 degrees above the southeastern horizon an hour before sunrise. Jupiter lies below and to the left of Mars. Watch the separation between Mars and Jupiter decrease from sixteen degrees on December 1 to three degrees on New Year's Eve. The Moon passes Mars on December 13 and Jupiter the following day. Venus and Saturn are too close to the Sun to see.

Evening Stars

No planets are visible after sunset this month. Weather permitting, you may observe the occultation of Taurus' brightest star, Aldebaran, by the Moon on December 30. The star will seem to disappear at 5:25 pm and reappear at 6:13 pm.

Sun Declination

PHENOMENA

3rd, Full Moon (Perigee Full Moon–closest Full Moon of year) - 9:47 am

4th, Moon perigee; 222,143 miles - 2:58 am

10th, Last Quarter Moon - 1:51 am

14th, Geminid Meteor Shower peak - 12:07 am

17th, Variable star, Algol, at min brightness (+3.4) - 11:42 pm

18th, New Moon Little Spirit Moon (Ojibwe) - 12:30 am

18th, Moon apogee; 252,650 miles - 7:22 pm

21st, December solstice; winter begins N Hemisphere - 10:28 am

26th, First Quarter Moon - 3:20 am

30th, Aldebaran 0.04 degrees south of Moon (Occultation 5:15-6:13 pm) - 5:45 pm

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