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Southern Cross Stargazer for Dec. 21-17, 2014

Sunday

The Winter Solstice occurs at 6:03 p.m. The sun is at its southernmost latitude, Tropic of Capricorn, in the southern hemisphere summer. Winter begins in the northern hemisphere where nights are longest and days shortest. Measure your longest noontime shadow. New Moon occurs 8:36 p.m.

The Ursid Meteor Shower may begin late this evening radiating from Polaris, the North Star. Faint, slow, bluish meteors, remnants from Comet Tuttle, will reach max activity, 15 meteors per hour, in the predawn Monday and Tuesday.

Monday

By 6 p.m. brilliant Venus, Evening Star, glows near the southwestern horizon. The young crescent moon floats 5 degrees right of Venus and the Sagittarian Teaspoon. Great views in binoculars! Dim blue Neptune sails high in the southwest in Aquarius. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune. Blue-green Uranus drifts into the south in Pisces, Fish. Cetus, Whale swims below Uranus. The Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) lead Taurus, Bull to the Zenith. Ruddy Aldebaran (Bull's red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull's face). Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, toward the north. The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, their daughter Andromeda and Perseus, Hero. Bright Vega leads the Summer Triangle lower in the northwest. Cygnus, Swan, becomes the Northern Cross. Mid-evening, gigantic Orion, Hunter, rises in the east, ready to begin his nocturnal pursuit of the Bull overhead. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in the southeast in Orion's Big Dog. The Gemini Twins stand on the northeastern horizon. By 10 p.m. bright Jupiter and its four closest satellite moons rise in the east beside Leo, Lion. The Big Dipper appears in the northeast.

Wednesday

In evening dusk, the moon floats to the right of dim Mars in Capricornus in the southwest. Binoculars reveal the Earthshine reflecting off the dark lunar surface. They set early.

Saturday

By 6 a.m., silver Saturn glows in the southeast near the head of huge Scorpius. Bright Jupiter leads Leo, the Lion, westward. The Big Dipper hangs in the north. Arcturus sparkles in the east. Spica twinkles, in Virgo in the south. Corvus, the Crow, flies across the south. The globular star cluster, Omega Centauri, shimmers low in the south,

Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org

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