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Looking Up: A Skywatcher’s Guide to December 2011

Looking Up: A Skywatcher’s Guide to December 2011

Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in the sky during the month of December, 2011:

December 2 – First Quarter Moon, 4:52 a.m. One-half of the Moon appears illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing.

December 6 – Moon at apogee (its farthest point from the Earth).

December 6 – Phoenecid meteor shower. A minor southern hemisphere shower.

December 8 – Earliest sunset of the year at 40° N latitude.

December 22 – Puppis-Velid meteor shower. A minor southern hemisphere shower.

December 9 – Monocerotid meteor shower. A minor northern hemisphere shower.

December 10 – Full Moon, 9:37 a.m. The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event, and appears full for three days.

December 10 – Total lunar eclipse. The regions of the globe that will have ringside seats for this second total eclipse of the Moon in 2011 are Alaska, Hawaii, northwestern Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and central and eastern Asia. For the contiguous U.S. and Canada, the east will see only the initial penumbral stages before moonset. Over the central regions, the Moon will set as it becomes progressively immersed in the Earth’s umbral shadow.

The Rocky Mountain States and the Prairie Provinces will see the Moon set in total eclipse, while in the west the Moon will start to emerge from the shadow as it sets. The Moon passes through the southern part of the Earth’s shadow, with totality lasting 52 minutes. The geometrical magnitude is 1.111. Moon Enters Penumbra, 6:32 a.m,; Moon Enters Umbra, 7:45 a.m.; Total Eclipse Begins, 9:06 a.m.; Middle of Eclipse, 9:32 a.m.; Total Eclipse Ends, 9:58 a.m.; Moon Leaves Umbra, 11:18 a.m.; Moon Leaves Penumbra, 12:32 p.m.

December 12 – Sigma Hydrid meteor shower. A minor northern hemisphere shower.

December 14 – Geminid meteor shower. 2011 is not expected to be a favorable year for this often-strong shower.

December 17– Last Quarter Moon, 7:48 p.m. One-half of the Moon appears illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing.

December 20 – Leo Minorid meteor shower. A minor northern hemisphere shower.

December 20 – Coma Berenicid meteor shower. A minor northern hemisphere shower.

December 22 – Winter Solstice, 12:30 a.m. The Sun reaches its farthest point south of the celestial equator.

December 22 – Moon at perigee (its closest point to the Earth).

December 23 – Ursid meteor shower. 2011 is expected to be a favorable year for this occasionally major shower.

December 23 – Comet 2009P1 Garradd at perihelion, and may reach naked-eye brightness.

December 24– New Moon, 1:07 p.m. The Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight.

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