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    Articles > December 2004
 
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Celestial Delights

Both an introduction to Astronomy and a calendar of upcoming celestial events to 2010, this layperson's guide forecasts and explains numerous celestial phenomena in lucid writing and easy-to-grasp diagrams. Specially written for urban skywatchers, Celestial Delights deepens our appreciation of what we see when we look up into the night sky, and inspires us to do so more often.
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The Monthly Sky Guide



  Sky Calendar -- December 2004
Comet Machholz (C/2004 Q2) will be visible in the evening sky all month (sky map shows its path). During December the comet will brighten from mag. 6.2 to 4.3 and become a fine binocular object.
5 Last Quarter Moon at 0:53 UT.
5 Venus 1.2° from Mars at 23h UT (28° from Sun, morning sky). Magnitudes -4.0 and +1.7.
7 Moon very near Jupiter at 11h UT (morning sky). Occultation visible from the eastern-half of USA and southern Canada between 4-5 a.m. EST on Dec. 7.
9 Moon near Mars at 23h UT (morning sky).
10 Moon, Venus, and Mars within a circle diameter 3.5° at 1h UT (morning sky).
12 New Moon at 1:29 UT. Beginning of lunation 1014.
12 Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 22h UT (distance 357,984 km; angular size 33.4').
14 Geminid Meteor Shower peaks at 18h UT. Produces bright, medium-speed meteors at its peak on the night of December 13-14 (up to 80 meteors/hour). The parent body of the Geminids is a mysterious asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon believed to be an "extinct comet." The shower radiant is indicated on the sky map.
18 First Quarter Moon at 16:40 UT.
21 December solstice at 12:40 UT. The time when the Sun reaches the point farthest south of the celestial equator marking the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
23 Moon near the Pleiades at 17h UT (evening sky).
26 Full Moon at 15:06 UT. The full Moon of December is called the "Moon Before Yule" in old almanacs.
27 Moon at apogee (furthest from Earth) at 19h UT (distance 406,489 km; angular size 29.4').
29 Mercury at greatest elongation, 22° west from the Sun (morning sky) at 20h UT. Mercury (mag. -0.3) visible at dawn low in the southeast 1.2° above much brighter Venus (mag. -3.9).
31 Mercury 1.1° from Venus at 6h UT (22° from Sun, morning sky). Magnitudes -0.3 and -3.9.
All times Universal Time (UT). (USA Eastern Standard Time = UT ­ 5 hours)

Clear skies till next month!

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