Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

December 2014

1st –Looking to the southwest around 6 o’clock tonight you will be able to see the red planet Mars.  Today Mars is about 15 light minutes from the Earth or 170 million miles away.

2nd – A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in a year which is about 6 trillion miles or 9.5 trillion kilometers!

3rd – Looking to the southeast around 1 o’clock in the morning you will see Jupiter near the star Regulus. Today Jupiter is about 455 million miles or 40 light minutes away from the Earth!

4th – On this date in 1996 the Mars Pathfinder rover named Sojourner was launched. The Mars Science Laboratory is currently exploring Mars. To learn more visit http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

5th – Public telescope viewing will be held the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org

6th – Looking to the northeast around 6 o’clock tonight you will see moon. December’s full moon is called the full cold moon because it is visible when the cold weather really begins.

7th – Looking near the center of the sky around 6 o’clock tonight you will see four stars that form a square. This pattern of stars is called the great square of Pegasus.

8th – Looking to the northeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waning gibbous moon to the left of the stars Castor and Pollux. Pollux is about 34 light years away while Castor is about 51 light years away!

9th – The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object you can see with the naked eye under dark skies. The galaxy is 2 ½ million light years away and is located in the constellation Andromeda.

10th – Looking to the east around 10 o’clock tonight you will see the waning gibbous moon. Look above the moon to see Jupiter. The moon is about 240,000 miles or 1.3 light seconds away.

11th – On this date in 1863 Annie Jump Cannon was born.  She discovered 300 variable stars.  Variable stars change in brightness like the star Algol in the constellation Perseus.

12th – Looking high in the southwest around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see the waning crescent moon below the star Regulus.  This star is around 77 light years away!

13th – Tonight is the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. To best see the meteors get far from city lights and look toward the east at Gemini starting around 10 o’clock tonight

14th – On this date in 1546, Tycho Brahe was born in Denmark.  The observations made by this astronomer helped support sun centered model of the solar system. 

15th –Looking to the southeast around 6 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the crescent moon just above the star Spica. Spica lies around 250 light years away!

16th – Looking to the southeast around 6 o’clock in the morning you will see the crescent moon the star Spica. This star is part of the constellation Virgo the Maiden.

17th – Looking to the east around 6 o’clock tonight you will see the red star Aldebaran. This star is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull and lies about 65 light years away.

18th – Looking to the west around 6 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see the crescent moon just above Saturn. Today the moon is about 236,000 miles away while Saturn is about 996 million miles away!

19th – Looking to the southeast around 9 o’clock tonight and you will see the popular winter constellation Orion the Hunter.This constellation has two of the ten brightest stars in the sky!

20th – Believe it or not the Earth is actually closer to the sun during the winter season but because of the tilt of our axis we receive less direct sunlight making it cold in the northern hemisphere.

21st – Today is the winter solstice which is the first official day of winter. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. After today the days will slowly get longer.

22nd – The zodiac is a belt of 13 constellations that straddle the sky. Within this belt lie the apparent paths of the sun, the moon, and the planets.

23rd –Looking near the center of the sky around 11 o’clock tonight you will see the yellow star Capella. This star is about 43 light years away which mean the light we see tonight left the star in 1969!

24th – Looking to the southwest around 6 o’clock tonight you will see the crescent moon to the right of Mars. Mars is about 16 light minutes away while the moon is 1.3 light seconds away!

25th – Looking to the east around 6 o’clock tonight you will see the Pleiades star cluster which is made up of hundreds of stars. This cluster is about 440 light years away!

26th – The autumn sky contains fewer bright stars than can be seen during the other 3 seasons. In contrast the winter sky has 4 of the 10 brightest stars visible in the night sky!

27th – Looking to the northwest around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “M”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.

28th – Looking to the east around 11 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a backwards question mark. This is part of the constellation Leo the Lion.

29th –Looking to the southeast around 6 o’clock tomorrow morning you will see Saturn. Today Saturn is around 996 million miles or 89 light minutes from Earth.

30th – Looking to the southeast around 9 o’clock tonight you will see six bright stars that form the winter circle. The winter circle contains 4 of the 10 brightest stars of the night sky! 

31st - You can ring in the new year with the brightest star in the sky. Look due south at midnight and you will see Sirius the Dog Star. Sirius is about 8 light years away!