Monthly Sky Report - December 2006
To find the planets, bright stars and groups, you need to know the compass
directions where you watch the sky. Lacking a compass, you can use the
sun at the start, middle and end of the day. As you face the rising sun
- it will be rising in the East Southeast. In mid day (around noon),
look at your shadow which then points North. The sun will set in the
During December, there is an average of 9.4 hours of sunlight each day.
During December, the sunsets range from 4:51 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunrises
change from 7:17 a.m. early in the month to 7:35 a.m. at month's end.
Stars begin to fade away an hour before sunrise and the star groups come
into view an hour after sunset. In the early evening, there are two very
bright stars visible, golden Capella in the high in the Northeast and
white-blue Vega low in the Northwest. Above and to the left of Vega is
the Northern Cross, topped by the bright star Deneb. As the evening hours
pass, the Northern Cross slowly drops toward the Northwestern horizon.
In the East, you'll notice three stars in a row, the belt of Orion, the
Hunter. To the left of the belt is pinkish Betelgeuse, marking one of
Orion's shoulders. Orion's brightest star is white-blue Rigel to the
right of the belt. Late in the evening, the bright planet Saturn can
be seen low in the East, shining near Leo's sickle.
for Early December
The evening moon is full on December 4th, rising before sunset and staying
above the horizon for 15 hours. On the morning of December 10th, there
is a close grouping of three planets low in the East Southeast at 6:40
a.m. Very close are the planets Mercury and very bright Jupiter. To the
right of the close pair is the dull planet Mars. Mercury and Jupiter
are less than half a moon width apart while Mars to the right is about
two moon widths from the other two planets.
for Mid December
In mid December, the moon rises after midnight and is best viewed at
dawn. The early evening will then be great for viewing the bright winter
stars, then low in the East and Southeast. In the East Southeast dawn,
the planets Jupiter and Mercury pull apart with Mercury dropping out
of view. The planet Venus begins to creep above the west southwestern
for Late December
Winter officially begins on December 21st, the shortest day of the year.
With a little luck, you may see the brilliant planet Venus and a very
slender crescent moon very low in the 5:15 p.m. West Southwestern dusk
on December 21st. On December 26th & 27th, the moon appears half
full in the southwestern evening sky. As the year draws to a close on
New Year's Eve, the moon appears near Aldebaran, the bright star marking
the eye of Taurus.
Shows: Our December Planetarium presentation is "Skies Over the
Holy Lands", shown on December 3rd, 10th and 17th at 4 p.m. and
7 p.m. The Planetarium is in Tawes 302, near the middle of the Frostburg