Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.
|Date||45° N||30° S||Event|
|1||Sun||The Moon occults Saturn: visible from parts of Antarctica from about 09:00 UT.|
|4||Wed||Moon at perigee|
|6||Fri||Nearly perfect skies greet this year's return of the Phoenicids (theoretical peak activity: 10:00 UT).|
|7||Sat||The poorly-established Puppid-Velids are similarly blessed with dark skies.|
|9||Mon||First Quarter Moon|
|10||Tue||Venus at its brightest this year, magnitude -4.7|
|14||Sat||The waxing gibbous Moon will interfere with the reliable Geminids (theoretical peak activity: 05:45 UT).|
|19||Thu||Moon at apogee|
|21||Sat||Solstice on Earth|
|22||Sun||The waning gibbous Moon means light-polluted skies during peak activity (about 14:00 UT) of the Ursids|
|Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy at perihelion|
|25||Wed||Last Quarter Moon|
|27||Fri||The Moon occults the first-magnitude star Spica: visible from Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden from about 01:45 UT.|
|28||Sat||The Moon occults Saturn: visible from most of Antarctica from about 23:30 UT.|
|29||Sun||Mercury at superior conjunction|
|30||Mon||Uranus at east quadrature|
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The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.
Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies or some of the closest stars to the Sun.
Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.
|Local Time||Northern Hemisphere||Southern Hemisphere|
|1730 hours (1830 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
|1930 hours (2030 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
|2130 hours (2230 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
|2330 hours (0030 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
|0130 hours (0230 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
|0330 hours (0430 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
|0530 hours (0630 hours summer time)||45° N||30° S|
Much of this information can be found in this month's issue of your favourite amateur astronomy magazine available in your local bookshop. Another excellent source is the current edition of the Astronomical Calendar by Guy Ottewell and published by the Universal Workshop at Furman University.
The SkyEye banner features interacting galaxies UGC 1810 and UGC 1813, known collectively as Arp 273. The larger of the two spiral galaxies, UGC 1810, has a disc that has been tidally distorted into a rose-like shape by its companion galaxy below, UGC 1813. This smaller galaxy, nearly edge-on to our line of sight, shows signs of intense star formation in its core, possibly triggered by its encounter with its larger neighbour. It is thought that UGC 1813 actually dived through UGC 1810 some time in the distant past. Arp 273 is found in the constellation of Andromeda at a distance of about 340 million light years. The image was taken on 17 December 2010 and is courtesy of NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).