The Night Sky in December


    AT the time of the winter solstice on December 22, the night lasts 16¼ hours in the latitude of London. The moon is new on December 2 at 23·2h and full on December 17 at 18·9h U.T. Mercury is an evening star setting at about 17h, but the planet will be difficult to see, even at the time of greatest elongation (21° east) on December 12. Venus rises as a bright star in the late dawn. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are evening stars, their respective times of southing in mid-December being 16·3h, 14·6h and 18·3h. Conjunctions between the planets and the moon occur as follows: Mercury on December 4d 17h ; Venus on December ld 14h; Mars on December 9d Oh ; Jupiter on December 7d Oh and Saturn on December 12d 1h. At 22h in the middle of the month, Algol, Capella, the Pleiades and Aldebaran are near the meridian. The variability of Algol may be watched about 1½ hours before and after the following times: December 3d0·7h, 5d 21·5h, 8d 18·3h, 20d 5·6h, 23d 2·5h, 25d 23·3h, 28d 20·lh and 31d 17·0h. Comet Encke is traversing the constellation of Ophiuchus; according to Crommelin's ephemeris given in B.A.A. Handbook, p. 34, the comet will reach perihelion on December 27. The Geminid meteors, at maximum frequency about December 10, have their radiant point west of Castor. On a clear night, two nebulae that are very different in nature may be seen with the naked eye. The great nebula in Orion, situated within our stellar system, is a very extensive gaseous nebula nearly 600 light years from the earth. The great Andromeda nebula, 800,000 light years away, is one of the nearest two of a vast host of extra-galactic nebulae extending into remotest space.

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    The Night Sky in December. Nature 140, 929 (1937).

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