Starwatch for December 2023

Written by on December 8, 2023

Hello! I’m Karl Hricko of United Astronomy Clubs of NJ and the National Space Society, bringing you the December Starwatch for WNTI-the sound of Centenary.

In this month of Christmas, it is fitting to see a manger in the western sky just below a cross shaped pattern of stars. The manger is Lyra (the Harp), and the cross is the cross of Calvary being held by St. Helen (Cygnus the Swan). This religious interpretation of these star patterns were made by Julius Schiller, in a star atlas he had published in the 17th Century. In his atlas, Schiller included the Three Wise Men (Hercules) and named the 12 constellations of the zodiac after the 12 apostles.

Assigning different names to the constellations has been a common practice throughout the ages. For example, the ancient Egyptians saw Orion the Hunter as their major god Osiris. Many other cultures have also made connections between the starry heavens and their religions.

Whatever religious belief we may have, in this season of good will, let us celebrate it with an appreciation of what we have here on Earth and what we see in the night sky. Facing southeast after sunset, Jupiter is seen in Aries. Saturn will then appear to the southwest in Aquarius, while to its right, Mercury looms low on the horizon in Sagittarius. Before sunrise, Venus rises in Virgo as you look southeast.  Mars is not seen. On the night of the 13th, going into the 14th, the Geminid meteor shower will peak, while the winter solstice begins at 10:27 p.m. on the 21st. So enjoy a season of stars and see the celestial showers before the first day of winter.

Until our next Starwatch -Don’t forget to check out …  What’s up in the night sky!

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