Our southern skies on December 2 will see Venus close to the bright globular cluster M22 in the evening twilight, best viewed with binoculars. On December 11 you will see Venus and Saturn about two finger-widths apart in the sky. December 23 will have the crescent moon close to Mars in the morning sky, followed on December 27 with the crescent moon close to Saturn in the evening twilight, then December 29 has the crescent moon close to Venus in the evening sky.
This month we have the Geminids meteor shower, which is considered one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, with the possibility of sighting about 120 meteors per hour at its peak on the night of December 14-15 — but with a full moon very close to the radiant we will have some reduced visibility. The shower owes its name to the constellation Gemini because the meteors seem to emerge from this constellation in the sky. Unlike most other meteor showers, the Geminids is not associated with a comet but with the asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. As Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by the weird, rocky object, the dust and grit burn up as it runs into Earth’s atmosphere in a flurry of shooting stars. The asteroid takes about 1.4 years to orbit the sun.
On Friday, December 6, the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society will be holding its monthly public astronomy night at the MPAS Observatory at The Briars in Mount Martha, starting at 8pm with a multimedia talk and Q&A before moving outside to view the moon, planets, stars and clusters, all through a wide array of telescopes supplied by the society and members. These nights are great fun for the whole family. Even the littlies get a thrill from holding a meteorite — a large shooting star that has reached the ground and been found — or looking through a telescope. For more information, bookings and a map, visit the society’s website at mpas.asn.au
NERIDA LANGCAKE, Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society