Starwatch for December 2019
Written by John Del Re on December 12, 2019
Hello! I’m Karl Hricko of United Astronomy Clubs of NJ and the National Space Society, bringing you the December Starwatch for the WNTI listening area.
An international mission of several probes were sent out by the European Space Agency in 1986, to investigate the mysteries of Halley’s Comet. The mission was named “Giotto”, after an artist who painted the comet as the Star of Bethlehem in a nativity scene in 1301. .
The nature of the Christmas Star has always been a mystery. In the biblical account, it was a star that led Magi or astrologers to Bethlehem. At that time, planets were considered to be stars. Some astronomers now think the Christmas star was the planet Jupiter going through a series of conjunctions, or a coming together of planets and stars. This was originally suggested by Johannes Kepler in 1614.
Since Jupiter did go through a series of conjunctions at that time, it may have been “the star in the east”, or “The Christmas Star”. Although the conditions now are different, you may want to look up to the heavens to consider what might have led the Magi to Bethlehem.
In the beginning of the month at sunset from top to bottom there is a lineup of Saturn, Venus, and Jupiter. At the middle of the month, Jupiter dips below the horizon, and Saturn slides to the right of Venus. Finally at the end of the month, Saturn has moved down to the horizon, and the New Crescent Moon has slipped in position just below Venus. At dawn Mars rises in Libra just before sunrise, while Mercury is hard to see on the horizon below Mars.
So be of goodwill, and let your Christmas star lead you in peace, on your journey through life.
Until our next Starwatch -Don’t forget to check out … What’s up in the night sky!