|As we all get older in the Pagan Community, it is easy to get confused about how we should present ourselves. We’re unsure as we try to be nice and harmonize with the fashions that younger members of our community have adopted.
So I’ve made a sincere study of the situation and here are the results. Despite what you may have seen on the streets or at Pagan gatherings, the following combinations do not go together and thus should be avoided:
Please keep these basic guidelines foremost in your mind when you shop.
2018’S BRIGHTEST COMET COMES CLOSEST TO EARTH DECEMBER 16
For a short background, Comet 46P/Wirtanen is indeed the brightest comet in the night sky, though it’s been too faint to see with the naked eye thus far. From dark sky sites, however, it could just become naked-eye visible soon as it comes closest to Earth on its 5.4-year-long looping orbit.
PAST COMET SIGHTINGS
- We’ve had a goodly number of busts, such as comet Ison a few years ago that was touted as “The comet of the Century” but never got bright at all.
- On the other hand, we’ve had two spectacular comets since the mid-70s—the pre-dawn mind-blower Comet West in March of 1976, and then Hale Bopp, which remained brilliant for almost an entire year, mostly in 1997.
- We’ve also had a bunch of visible-but-not-brilliant comets in the form of Comet Kohoutek in 1973, Comet Iras-Iraki-Alcock in 1983, Halley in the autumn of 1985, and Hyakutake in 1996. The new one is comet Wirtanen.
HOW TO SEE COMET 46P/WIRTANEN
This is a good news / bad news kind of deal.
- The bad is that it’s an unusually tiny comet whose nucleus is just ½ mile wide.
- The good news is that on December 15 and 16 it will pay Earth its closest-ever visit. It’ll pass just seven million miles from us. I’ve been watching it through binoculars the past few nights, and think it will brighten to be visible to the naked eye for those in rural regions. It’s doubtful whether it will become bright enough to appear in the glowing skies over cities, although you never know. It should be large and blobby looking, appearing as a fuzzy glob the size of the full moon.
COMET VIEWING TIPS
My suggestion is to look halfway up the southern sky starting around 10 p.m. beginning tonight or the next clear night.
If you can recognize the famous Seven Sisters star cluster, also known as the Pleiades—to the upper right of Orion—look far below it and sweep binoculars there, looking for a big blob. The comet will be brightest on the nights of Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December16, when it will be located just left of the Pleiades.
If you don’t already know the Pleiades, this is a good time to make their acquaintance. At 10 p.m. any night, look south and you’ll easily see a small, tightly packed group of stars. That’s it. Sweep binoculars over them and you’ll be thrilled, since the six naked-eye stars in the cluster will gloriously multiply to dozens, and their blue-white diamond color will be obvious too. It’s the very best celestial target for binoculars. And once you’ve located this marvelous sight, you’ll know where to look for the comet on December 15 and 16.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe!
Time to look for Mercury and Jupiter below Venus
Now – mid-December 2018 – it’s time to get outside in the early morning and try to spot our sun’s innermost planet, Mercury. Look east, the sunrise direction. You can’t miss super-bright Venus. Mercury is below it, near the sunrise point. If you look extra hard with the unaided eye or binoculars, you might spot bright Jupiter near the horizon, too, on a line with Venus and Mercury.
Mercury shines more brightly than a 1st-magnitude star now; in other words, it’s as bright as the brightest stars in our sky (but not nearly as brilliant as Venus). Bring along binoculars, if you have them, though. With daylight coming up fast, you could easily lose Mercury in the morning twilight.
You’ll need an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunrise. Depending on where you live worldwide, Mercury might – or might not – be above the horizon some 90 minutes before sunrise. If you don’t see it at first below dazzling Venus, wait a bit. As Earth spins under the sky, as dawn’s light is filling the sky, Mercury will be ascending higher in the east.
Jupiter is climbing upward now, too – day by day – toward Mercury, in the December 2018 morning sky. In mid-December, the bright morning twilight might render Jupiter invisible or nearly so. Fortunately, Jupiter should become easier to see by the time this brilliant world pairs up with Mercury on December 21.
This morning apparition of Mercury favors the Northern Hemisphere. The farther north you live, the more time that Mercury rises before sunrise; the farther south you live, the closer that Mercury rises to sunrise. Assuming a level eastern horizon, we give the approximate amount of time that Mercury rises before the sun at 45 degrees North latitude, the equator (0 degrees latitude) and 45 south latitude:
45 degrees north latitude: Mercury rises approximately 100 minutes before sunrise
Equator (0 degrees latitude): Mercury rises approximately 80 minutes before sunrise
45 degrees south latitude: Mercury rises approximately 60 minutes before sunrise
Click here for a recommended almanac that’ll give you Mercury’s precise rising time in your sky.
Although the sky charts above and below are designed for mid-northern latitudes, you can easily apply them to any part of the world with a few simple considerations:
At latitudes significantly north of the equator: Mercury is found to Venus’ lower left
At latitudes at or near the equator: Mercury is found pretty much directly below Venus
At latitudes significantly south of the equator: Mercury is found to Venus’ lower right
Bottom line: In mid-December 2018, for Mercury – and possibly Jupiter – below Venus in the east at dawn.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky’s popular Tonight pages since 2004. He’s a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.
Published on EarthSky
Geminid meteors peak this week
These next several nights are probably the best nights for watching for meteors in the annual Geminid shower. The peak morning is likely to be December 14, 2018, but the morning of December 13 might offer a good display, too, and meteor watchers have been catching Geminids for some nights now.
Just know that – although this is one shower you can successfully watch in the (late) evening – the best viewing hours are typically around 2 a.m., no matter where you are on Earth.
In 2018, the waxing crescent moon won’t be a hindrance because it’ll set in the evening. That means a dark sky from late evening until dawn for the 2018 Gemini meteor shower. Yay!
So the absolute best time of night to watch for Geminid meteors is around 2 a.m., when the the shower’s radiant point– near the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini – is high in the sky.
If you’re not one to stay up late, you can watch for meteors during the evening hours. Although the meteors will be few and far between at early-to-mid evening, you might, if you’re lucky, catch an earthgrazer – a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky.
Can you watch the meteor shower online? Yes. It won’t be the same experience as being out under a dark country sky. But, especially if you’re clouded out and can’t get out of the city, watching online can be a good way to join the fun. So far, we’ve heard from only one organization planning to broadcast the Geminids live. It’s sky-live.tv, which will cover the live event with 3 cameras in Teide Observatory (Canary Islands), Olivenza (Extremadura) and High Energy Observatory HESS (Namibia).
The narration will be in Spanish. Find the live broadcast here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/LHuT5yDtDu0.
Can you watch from the Southern Hemisphere? Sure! At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, the meteors tend to be fewer. The Geminids do favor the Northern Hemisphere, where the radiant appears higher in the sky. However, this shower is also visible from the tropical and subtropical parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
How many meteors will you see? The Geminids are a consistent and prolific shower, but the numbers of meteors you see also strongly depends on your sky conditions and on how far you are from city lights. Often, in the hours after midnight and under a dark sky, you can see 50 or more meteors per hour. Rates of 120 per hour have been reported at the peak, under optimum sky conditions.
In 2018, the absence of moonlight will provide dark skies from late night until dawn. How many will you see? We don’t know! Just watch, and let us know.
Remember … meteors in annual showers typically come in spurts and 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.
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.
Bottom line: With the moon setting relatively early in the evening, 2018 could be an excellent year for the Geminid shower. Peak morning is probably December 14, but watch December 13, too. And you might catch some Geminids before those dates!
The EarthSky team has a blast bringing you daily updates on your cosmos and world. We love your photos and welcome your news tips. Earth, Space, Human World, Tonight.
I will not be concerned at other men’s not knowing me;I will be concerned at my own want of ability.
Your Domino Reading for the Month of January 2019
Your spiritual and physical self may be out-of-balance at this time. While the journey may be arduous at times, the opportunity for you to bring these two important aspects of your being into a harmonious state is before you.
Your MahJong Tile for the Month of January
The Red Dragon tile is indicative of success and the fulfillment of your goals.
Your Animal Spirit Guide for December 13
Your Animal Spirit Guide for December 14