Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday December 8th through Sunday the 14th.
The full moon for the month of December occurs on Friday the 12th. This full moon occurs just a few hours before perigee – the moon’s closest point to the earth in its orbit – creating larger high tides and a slightly larger moon in our skies. This full moon is known as the Frost Moon, the Long Night's Moon, and the Moon Before Yule.
Venus and Jupiter are still visible low in the southwest as darkness falls. Venus is the higher and brighter of the two. Spaceweather.com is continuing to collect photos of the beautiful conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon from last week. Jupiter is setting at around 8:00 p.m. and Venus sets about half an hour to 45 minutes after Jupiter this week.
Mercury is slowly climbing out of the Sun’s glare and you may be able to catch it low in the west-southwest shortly after sunset by the end of the week. Mars was in conjunction with the sun last week and will slowly re-emerge into the morning skies over the next few months. Saturn is rising at around 12:30 a.m. this week.
The Geminid Meteor shower is due to peak on December 13th, but the moon will be just past full that night and therefore you will only be able to see the brightest of meteor trails. The moon will actually be in the constellation of Gemini, which is where the meteors will appear to come from, hence their name. In good conditions, this is usually one of the best meteor showers of the year, so it is still worth a look even with a bright moon.
Public viewing on university campus telescopes has finished for the year. Viewing will resume in late January 2009.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.