Astronomy Picture of the Day – The Brightest Spot on Ceres

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2015 December 11

The Brightest Spot on Ceres
Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, UCLA, MPS/DLR/IDA


Explanation: Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt with a diameter of about 950 kilometers. Exploring Ceres from orbit since March, the Dawn spacecraft’s camera has revealed about 130 or so mysterious bright spots, mostly associated with impact craters scattered around the small world’s otherwise dark surface. The brightest one is near the center of the 90 kilometer wide Occator Crater, seen in this dramatic false color view combining near-infrared and visible light image data. A study now finds the bright spot’s reflected light properties are probably most consistent with a type of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite. Of course, magnesium sulfate is also known to Earth dwellers as epsom salt. Haze reported inside Occator also suggests the salty material could be left over as a mix of salt and water-ice sublimates on the surface. Since impacts would have exposed the material, Ceres’ numerous and widely scattered bright spots may indicate the presence of a subsurface shell of ice-salt mix. In mid-December, Dawn will begin taking observations from its closest Ceres mapping orbit.

Earth Sky News for Dec. 11: Geminid meteors this weekend

Geminid meteors this weekend

Tonight, look for meteors! The 2015 Geminid meteor shower will be building towards its peak over this weekend. The peak comes Sunday night – the night of December 13, 2015 – but Friday and Saturday nights are good times to watch, too. Just know that the best viewing hours are typically in the wee hours after midnight, no matter where you are on Earth. In the Northern Hemisphere, this meteor shower often rates as one of the best – if not the best – shower of the year on a dark, moonless night. The shower’s zenithal hourly rate – maximum number of meteors seen – is up to 120/hour now, after some good displays in recent years. The moon turns new on December 11, 2015, guaranteeing dark skies for this year’s Geminid meteor shower.

For the Southern Hemisphere. At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, the meteor count will tend to be lower. The Geminids do favor the Northern Hemisphere, where the radiant is higher in the sky. However, this shower is also visible from the tropical and subtropical parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Watch for it this weekend!

What time should I watch? The best time to watch is after midnight, when the radiant point is high in the sky. Watching from midnight until dawn is probably optimum.

If you’re not one to stay up late, watch during the evening hours. Although the meteors are few and far between at early-to-mid evening, you might – if you’re really lucky – catch an earthgrazer – a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that shoots horizontally across the sky.

At northerly latitudes, the shower radiant point – near the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini – stays out from early evening until dawn. When the radiant point is near the horizon, the number of meteors that you see are few. The radiant climbs highest up around 2 a.m. and that’s why you see the highest numbers of Geminid meteors around that time.

How many meteors will I see? The Geminids are a consistent and prolific shower. You’ll see the most meteors in a dark sky, unspoiled by light pollution. Meteors often come in spurts and are interspersed by lulls, so give yourself at least an hour of observing time. Simply sprawl out on a reclining lawn chair, look upward and enjoy the show. Often, in the wee hours after midnight, you can see 50 or more meteors per hour.

Why are they called the Geminids? The Geminid meteors are named for the constellation Gemini the Twins, because the radiant point of this shower lies in front Gemini, closely aligning with the bright star Castor. If you trace all the Geminid meteors backward, they all appear to originated from this constellation.

But you don’t need to know the constellation Gemini to see the meteor shower. The Geminid meteors will streak across all parts of the heavens from late night until dawn.

Where do the meteors come from? Although meteors are sometimes called ‘shooting stars,’ they have nothing to do with stars. Instead, they are strictly a solar system phenomenon. Around this time every year, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of a mysterious object called 3200 Phaethon, which might be an asteroid or a burnt-out comet orbiting our sun. Debris from this object burns up in the Earth’s upper atmosphere to give us the annual Geminid meteor shower. The moderately fast Geminids slice through the Earth’s atmosphere at some 35 kilometers – or 22 miles – per second.

What else should I look for? After a night of meteor watching, look for the morning planets. Jupiter, Mars and Venus are all in the east before dawn.

Bottom line: Find a dark sky to watch a seasonal attraction, the Geminid shower. It peaks on the night of December 13, 2015 (morning of December 14), but the nights before and after will be good as well. With no moon to ruin the show, 2015 promises to be a great year for the Geminids. Some are predicting it might be the best shower of the year!



Your Daily Influences for December 11, 2015

Your Daily Influences
December 11, 2015 


Four of Swords Reversed
Activity begins again. Success will be realized. Move with caution and wisdom as your guides.










Thurisaz reversed often represents your inability to come to terms with repressed issues. It is a warning that if you do not purge past demons they may return to harm you. This Rune is also indicative of a time when you should not act on impulse.




Aries the Ram
This aspect of your life will be strongly influenced by a person who is selfish, quick-tempered, impulsive, impatient, foolhardy and a bit of a daredevil. Be careful this person keeps your best interest at heart and not their own. This person is probably someone you already know. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in their impulsiveness.






Your Daily Influences represent events and challenges the current day will present for you. They may represent opportunities you should be ready to seize. Or they may forewarn you of problems you may be able to avoid or lessen. Generally it is best to use them as tips to help you manage your day and nothing more.

Your Daily Charm for December 11 is The Tusk

Your Daily Charm for Today

Today’s Meaning:
There is a good vibration surrounding this aspect. It feels better than it has in quite some time. Maintain your faith in your deity of choice and this good vibration will remain. Waiver from your faith and this good vibration will dissipate.

General Description:
This Etruscan talisman – a tusk carved in basalt, and elaborately mounted in gold filigree work – was worn as a protector from danger and evil influences. The charm was supposed to attract good fortune and success. The Tusk represented one of the horns of the Crescent Moon, which was a symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis, who, in the course of time, became the most universal and powerful of all the goddesses. The Estrucans, Greeks and Romans had great faith in the reputed virtues of amulets, a belief which was greatly influenced by the Egyptians.

Your Animal Spirit for December 11 is The Otter

Your Animal Spirit for Today
December 11, 2015


Otter represents one of the most playful feminine energies on earth—and she has swum over into your reading to bring a message of joyful play. If life has been difficult or challenges overwhelming, relax a little—Otter is here to remind you that play is just as important as work—and NOT competitive play, but rather the kind you loved as a child. Hopscotch anyone?

Your Ancient Symbol Card for December 11 is The Crow

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Crow

The Crow is the trusted messenger that alerts its allies to both danger and opportunity. Although they may appear playful and too opportunistic to be trusted, Crows are in fact powerful and trustworthy. The Crow sees and hears all. When The Crow reports it is best to listen as their news is always important and presented accurately.

As a daily card, The Crow indicates that you will soon receive news that will either protect you from loss or lead you too opportunities doorstep. To fully realize the advantage the information will soon receive carries with it you will need to react to it quickly and with sureness.

The Daily Witches Rune for December 11th is The Wave

Daily Witches Rune

The Wave

Meaning: This rune symbolizes your friends and family and their influence upon you. Its meaning is usually derived from the other stones closest to it. This rune is also associated with travel. A journey abroad is indicated especially if the Sun rune is nearby, but a journey for someone close to you if the Moon stone is closest. If it is near to the Rings it foretells a holiday or long distance relationship.

Your Crowley Thoth Tarot Card for December 11th is The Tower

Your Crowley Thoth Tarot Card for Today

The Tower

The Tower is perfect card for the revolutionary or iconoclast or anyone who flourishes in rapidly changing environments. What The Tower brings to the mix is sudden, usually unexpected change. With that change there will be a period of disorder, and there may be loss. However, the loss is probably not yours, since you may well be the agent that created the change to begin with. Many positive things can occur from the change The Tower indicates: Truths will be laid bare, revelations and breakthroughs are not just possible but likely, and nothing spurs creativity like a good dose of chaos and confusion. In the end it is likely that what replaces what was lost in the fall of The Tower will be worth the loss.

Your Daily Rune for December 11th is Thurisaz


bw-thurisazYour Rune For Today

Thurisaz embodies the polarity of life and death and the struggle to keep them in balance. Expect conflict, hardship and obstacles, but be assured that remaining focused and in touch with your inner strengths will see you through whatever comes your way. This Rune may also represent protection from your enemies, which is never a bad thing.

Additional information about Today’s Rune, Thurisaz

þurisaz : giant

Phonetic equivalent: th (as in ‘thing’)

DIVINATORY MEANINGS: hardship, painful event, discipline, knowledge, introspection, focus

MAGICAL USES: aid in study and meditation, self-discipline, clearing out a bad situation

ASSOCIATED MYTHS & DEITIES: the Frost Giants, Loki

ANALYSIS: þurisaz is the first of the ‘obstacle’ runes. These obstacles are not necessarily destructive things, but are placed in our path to strengthen and teach us. After all, you can’t have a mythic hero without dragons to slay or giants to fight!

The lesson of this rune is ‘to learn you must suffer’, meaning not only literal suffering, but also in the biblical sense of ‘allowing’ – allowing one’s destiny to unfold as it should, and allowing one’s self to experience all that life offers us. What may at first appear to be a negative, destructive event may well turn out to contain an important lesson. The Giants may seem to be evil and destructive to the Aesir, but they bring about change, and eventually clear the way for a new age.


The Runic Journey (PDF)

by Jennifer Smith

Your Tarot Desire Cards for the Weekend of December 11

Your Tarot Desire Cards

The reading focuses on your ambitions and dreams for the upcoming weekend.

The Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel of Fortune represents that aspect of life that is directed by forces and events we may not understand or even be aware of. In short, The Wheel deals with chance—those occurrences that manage to alter even the most structured of lives, usurp man’s “best laid plans.” While the effects of The Wheel are unpredictable, the outcome is always change; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Our path through life is never a ride down a perfectly straight highway. Sometimes we may even experience hairpin turns or complete reversals of direction. The Wheel of Fortune is strong reminder that despite our plans, the Universe has its own agenda from which we cannot escape participation.

When The World or The Fool are among your personal cards, the influence of The Wheel of Fortune may be increased. Having The Hierophant or The Emperor in your personal cards may diminish the influence of The Wheel of Fortune.

The Magus

The Magus is the physical embodiment of decisive action based upon knowledge and aimed squarely at specific goals. While firmly set in the material world, he none-the-less has a powerful spiritual connection as well. His knowledge, wisdom and skill are all encompassing. He is complete. His power as a creator is unmatched on our earthly plane. He is self-aware and unafraid to act. His enormous strength gives him the freedom to act as he chooses. However, responsibility comes with that freedom. Because he is not bound to the restraints of others he must choose how to act. The question that always lies before him is should he act morally, or forsake ethics for personal gain.

When The Chariot is among your personal cards, the influence of The Magus may be increased. Having The Empress or Hanged Man in your personal cards may diminish the influence of The Magus.