Stargazer  

December 2023
Compiled by Barb Yager

 

SCAS CELEBRATES

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF ASTRONOMY OUTREACH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION IN SOUTH FLORIDA
1922 - 2022

HONOR THE NIGHT

Ancient cultures measured time by the Moon's phases, the days of each cycle counted out. They knew when the Moon would wax and wane. Who today is aware whether the Moon is crescent, full or gibbous? We no longer honor the night sky. On a retreat with preteen students, far enough from city lights to see the cosmos, on a night when bright Venus cast a shadow, we asked them to turn off their flashlights, let their eyes adjust, Trust their steps in starlight. We honored the night sky.

Juliane Mc Adam, retired middle school language teacher, CA
 

BILL SADOWSKI PARK

The observing pad is open for public OBSERVATION


D’AURIA OBSERVATORY

The D'Auria Observatory is open for public OBSERVATION AND ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY
 
HOURS ARE DUSK TO 10 PM.
 

Lunar Timetable

Last Quarter Moon Image                                           Last Quarter      December 5th @ 3:37 am
New Moon Image                                        New Moon        December 12th @ pm
First Quarter Moon Image                                        First Quarter       December 19th @ 1:39 pm
Full Moon Image                                                Full Moon       December 26th @ 7:33 pm
 
 

SOUTHERN CROSS OBSERVATION PAD

The popular free SOUTHERN CROSS OBSERVATION PAD HAS RE-OPENED in MIAMI-DADE BILL SADOWSKI Park! Come visit with us 7:30-10 p.m. Saturday's weather permitting. Bring `scopes & binocs, chairs, family, friends, colleagues, students, and bug repellent. Our SCAS Astros have introduced thousands to the awesome beauty of our seasonal night skies since 1986. Please dim headlights at the Park entrance SW 176 St./SW 79 Ave. 1/2 mile west of Old Cutler Road, Palmetto Bay 33157. The small parking lot is near the deck. Face masks are optional. Check the SCAS Facebook for weather/Holiday cancellations.

For astrophotography instruction visit our free D'AURIA outdoor observatory, Saturdays from dusk -10 P.M. 23325 SW 217 Avenue, Homestead 33031. Park outside the gate. No white lights, lanterns, lasers. litter, alcohol, or pets at both sites. For membership open www.scas.org

ENJOY SCAS PUBLIC STAR PARTIES: Weather permitting!
Saturday evenings dusk- 10 p.m.
SCAS Observation Pad in Miami-Dade Bill Sadowski Park SW 176 St./SW 79 Ave. Palmetto Bay 33157 free
D'Auria Observatory 23325 SW 217 Ave.dusk-10 p.m. astrophotograqphy information free No white lights, lanterns, lasers, litter, alcohol, or pets at either location.

METEOR SHOWERS THIS MONTH

Geminids

Currently active
Active from November 19th to December 24th, 2023

The Geminids are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year and meteor enthusiasts are certain to circle December 13 and 14 on their calendars. This is the one major shower that provides good activity prior to midnight as the constellation of Gemini is well placed from 22:00 onward. The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored. Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen. These meteors are also seen in the southern hemisphere, but only during the middle of the night and at a reduced rate.

Shower details - Radiant: 07:24 +32.3° - ZHR: 150 - Velocity: 21 miles/sec (medium - 34km/sec) - Parent Object: 3200 Phaethon (asteroid)

Next Peak - The Geminids will next peak on the Dec 13-14, 2023 night. On this night, the moon will be 1% full.

Ursids

Currently active
Active from December 13th to December 24th, 2023

The Ursids are often neglected due to the fact it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are much less than the Geminds, which peaks just a week before the Ursids. Observers will normally see 5-10 Ursids per hour during the late morning hours on the date of maximum activity. There have been occasional outbursts when rates have exceeded 25 per hour. These outbursts appear unrelated to the perihelion dates of comet 8P/Tuttle. This shower is strictly a northern hemisphere event as the radiant fails to clear the horizon or does so simultaneously with the start of morning twilight as seen from the southern tropics.

Shower details - Radiant: 14:36 +75.3° - ZHR: 10 - Velocity: 20.5 miles/sec (medium - 33km/sec) - Parent Object: 8P/Tuttle

Next Peak - The Ursids will next peak on the Dec 21-22, 2023 night. On this night, the moon will be 74% full.

Quadrantids

Next period of activity: December 26th, 2023 to January 16th, 2024

The Quadrantids have the potential to be the strongest shower of the year but usually fall short due to the short length of maximum activity (6 hours) and the poor weather experienced during early January. The average hourly rates one can expect under dark skies is 25. These meteors usually lack persistent trains but often produce bright fireballs. Due to the high northerly declination (celestial latitude) these meteors are not well seen from the southern hemisphere.

Shower details - Radiant: 15:20 +49.7° - ZHR: 120 - Velocity: 25 miles/sec (medium - 40.2km/sec) - Parent Object: 2003 EH (Asteroid)

Next Peak - The Quadrantids will next peak on the Jan 3-4, 2024 night. On this night, the moon will be 51% full.


Open the link: News and Information about Meteor Showers

Here are some tips on how to maximize your time looking for meteors and fireballs during any meteor shower:

  • Get out of the city to a place where the city and artificial lights do not impede your viewing
  • If you are out viewing the shower during its peak, you will not need any special equipment. You should be able to see the shower with your naked eyes.
  • Carry a blanket or a comfortable chair with you - viewing meteors, just like any other kind of stargazing is a waiting game, and you need to be comfortable. Plus, you may not want to leave until you can't see the majestic celestial fireworks anymore.

 

In case you missed it......

October 2022 Sky & Telescope p. 62 features photos of our two famous SCAS astronomers. The late Don Parker, M.D., renowned Mars astrophotographer, and the late Tippy D'Auria, founder of our annual Winter Star Party were in a group of professional astronomers, editors, and photographers who drove to the Florida Keys in June 2001 to hopefully capture Martian flares of light. All were members of the Assoc. of Lunar & Planetary Observers.  The intriguing article begins on P. 59.

 

BRIGHT COMETS THIS MONTH

NO BRIGHT COMETS THIS MONTH

 

Open the link: News and information about Bright Comets

 

SCAS EVENTS

 

SATURDAY EVENINGS

When night skies gradually improve in clarity as the Monsoon season winds down, our SCAS Observing sites will open to members and the public.
D`AURIA OBSERVATORY- 23325 SW 217 Ave. Homestead 33031 opens 7:30 -10 p.m. for astrophotography assistance and general observing.
S. CROSS OBSERVATORY, MiamiDade Bill Sadowski Park 8-10 p.m.  SW 176 St./SW 79 Ave..
Palmetto Bay 33157  for equipment assistance. and grand tour of the night sky if weather permits.
In our 37th year at the Park offering  successful astronomy education for the public.
No white lights, lasers, flashlights, lanterns, litter, alcohol or pets at both sites   Free.
We operate by starlight !   
                                      

SCAS  HAM RADIO

Recently, member Dan Zuckerman replaced and upgraded his ham equipment. He was chatting with folks in Europe.  
Do we have some retired, or new SCAS ham operators who would like to establish a SCAS radio dept?  
It could become very convenient, or necessary in certain future conditions. Consider the astronomy information shared and maybe international SCAS members!
Contact me (Barb) if you wish to link up with Dan.  barbyager@aol.com.

SOLAR VIEWING

SOLAR  ECLIPSE  10/14
Weather permitting SCAS  needs solar telescopes at the "front door" to ZooMiami  12400 SW 152nd st,  starting this month
There will be large crowds of families. Please CONTACT ME ASAP  if you can bring equipment,  We are restoring our popular solarviewing  events at ZooMiami.
Plans need to be made in advance.  Updates will be sent out to members soon.

Interested to join our new solar team? Contact me: barbyager@aol.com . If you have solar equipment or want to help, please send an email to Dr. Lester Shalloway with
your information:  drlester3@aol.com.

 

IN THE SKY

A favorite constellation ORION, Hunter awakens on the eastern horizon and climbs higher in the east in pursuit of Taurus, Bull.  
The Great Orion Nebula glows from his sword. The unique stellar nursery extends for trillions of miles in diameter, provides a luminous cloud visible in telescopes.  
Orion marches across the south and is visible in our winter night sky until April.

SIRIUS

The beautiful blue star SIRIUS sparkles in the constellation Canis Major--Orion's Big Dog that follows the Hunter.  
Sirius is 8.6 light years away and rises mid-evening in the SE. It sparkles in multi colors when near the horizons. Sirius  
leads the trail of PUPS near the southern horizon.  The annual appearance of Sirius inspired ancient Egyptians to produce their first calendar.
The small white dwarf companion star orbits Sirius every 50 years.
CANOPUS sends dazzling rainbow colors from the southern hemisphere.  It is located near our Southern  Cross constellation in the southern hemisphere directly below Sirius.

 


STORIES OF INTEREST
 

STRONGEST FLARE OF THE CURRENT SOLAR CYCLE:
Sunspot 3514 erupted on Dec. 14th (1702 UT), producing a strong X2.8-class solar flare. This is the strongest flare of Solar Cycle 25 (so far) and the most powerful eruption the sun has produced since the great storms of Sept. 2017. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE
Webb Identifies Tiniest Free-Floating Brown Dwarf:
Brown dwarfs are objects that straddle the dividing line between stars and planets. They form like stars, growing dense enough to collapse under their own gravity, but they never become dense and hot enough to begin fusing hydrogen and turn into a star. At the low end of the scale, some brown dwarfs are comparable with giant planets, weighing just a few times the mass of Jupiter.

 
 

   

 

 

 

NASA NEWS

 

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) is scheduled to launch the new Vulcan Centaur rocket Christmas Eve. from the Space Force Station, Cape Canaveral.
It's the successor to the Atlas V and Delta IV.  Riding along will be Peregrine, a robotic lunar lander, a NASA payload and customer instruments.
Astrobotics will make its first trip to the Moon as first commercial soft lunar landing.  Back up dates are 12/25 -26.
The ULA was previously scheduled early 2023 but an explosion in March delayed  the mission until 12/2023.

ISS - Miami Track

No good visible passes in the next 10 days.

Open the Link: News and Information about ISS passes over Miami.

Contribute

Have something interesting and astronomy related you would like to contribute? Send a brief 1-2 paragrapharticle to our Stargazer editor: barbyager@aol.com

Clear Sky Clock

Evening


Planets

NeptuneSaturn Jupiter Uranus Mercury


04- Mercury reaches highest altitude low in SW.
05- LAST QUARTER MOON occurs 12:49 a.m.
12- NEW MOON occurs 6:32 p.m.
14- GEMINID METEOR SHOWER- the radiant in the Gemini Twins rises in the
ENE by mid evening and the young crescent Moon sets in the west at dusk.  Dozens of Geminids may be visible in clear dark skies  most of the week but the
max will occur in the predawn hours of the 13-14th when the Gemini Twins are overhead. Dozens of Geminids visible around Midnight may include some fireballs
when observed from a safe, dark sky area  with friends.
17- The crescent MOON and Saturn are 2 degrees apart tonight.
Aim binoculars at the MOON to view black Earthshine.
19-  FIRST QUARTER MOON occurs at 1:39 p.m.
21-WINTER SOLSTICE occurs at 10:27 p.m. when the SUN reaches its southernmost point at the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere.
In the north, our daylight is shorter and nights longest for several days.  
22- URSID METEOR SHOWER  may be visible evening to the predawn.  
the radiant is located near the Little Dipper. The Dipper's handle is attached to Polaris, North Star. 10-15 Ursids per/hour may be visible.
23- The bright MOON  glows between the Pleiades cluster (left) and blue-green Uranus (right).  
26- The Christmas MOON rises in the ENE, becomes full phase at 7:33 p.m. and sets in the WNW  by dawn.  
31- The bright star Fomalhaut  is surrounded by satellite moons in the SW.
This month the distance to Neptune is  2.8 billion miles & Uranus 1.75 billion miles away.

 







Constellations

 
Bright Vega leads Lyra, Harp and the vast Summer Triangle onto the WNW horizon. Cygnus the Swan becomes the Northern Cross within the Triangle.
The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda holding the M-31 Galaxy, Aries, Ram bounds across the Zenith
and chases Pegasus (Winged Horse) westward. Bright Capella guides Auriga toward the north.  The delicate 7 Sisters (Pleiades) lead Taurus, Bull   
higher in the east.  Red giant Aldebaran is the Bull's red eye winking from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull's face).  Cetus, Whale swims across the south.  
Gigantic Orion, Hunter climbs higher in the east. The Great Orion Nebula glows from his sword. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion.  
Bright blue Sirius, a nearby star,  rises in the SE  below Orion. Sirius lies 8.6 light years from Earth. Phoenix spreads its wings on the southern horizon.
Grus, Crane stretches its starry neck above the SSW horizon. The Gemini Twins: Castor & Pollux stride higher in the NE.  The Beehive star cluster shimmers below Pollux.
 

Editor's  Message-
This will be my final edition of the SCAS monthly Stargazer.  I can submit astronomy high lites into the SCAS What's App and send to FB when an event--socially,
celestial, solar--occurs, if that is acceptable.  Too many hours are spent  trying to correct Microsoft Edge, Bing, a vanishing cursor, other promos suddenly cover my screen,  save and send disappear, or the screen suddenly goes blank with a noisy signal. It takes most of the fun of researching astronomy news and compiling the month of updates.
If a SCAS Astro could continue this educational feature, that is fine with me.

From 1984-2016 I compiled a weekly SCAS Stargazer as a community service that was published by the Miami Herald. Their Feature Dept. was inundated with letters,
emails and calls complaining when my brief article was discontinued.
I had no clue that so many teachers, families relied on simple astronomy info which was so nice to know my contribution had been so beneficial.
Barb

Morning


Planets

Venus Mercury Mars

Venus, Morning Star rises by 4 a.m in Virgo.    
05-  LAST QUARTER MOON  occurs 12:49 a.m.
09-  Waning  crescent Moon  and Venus 2 degrees apart in the SE.
11-  A thin crescent Moon leads Scorpius above the SE horizon.
12- NEW MOON  occurs at 6:32 p.m.
13-14 GEMINID METEOR SHOWER will be most intense 3-5 a.m. when the Earth cruises head on into the meteor band.  Some fireballs may occur in the Geminid Shower.
19- FIRST QUARTER MOON occurs  1:39 p.m.
26- Christmas Moon is full.
30- At dawn brilliant Venus, Morning Star leads huge Scorpius  above the ESE horizon.  Mercury lies 8 degrees left of red supergiant Antares--the heart beating in Scorpius.  
Ruddy Mars peers over the ESE horizon directly below Mercury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Constellations


Leo, Lion crawls toward the western horizon.  The Gemini Twins stand on the      WNW horizon.  Capella gleams from the NW horizon.
The Big Dipper swings into the  NW.  Bright Arcturus  (red giant) sparkles overhead.  Corvus, Crow flies ahead of Spica in Virgo in the SW.  The stars of Libra twinkle in the south.
Huge Scorpius climbs over the SE horizon.  Bright Vega, in Lyra the Harp, brings the vast Summer Triangle and Cygnus the Swan higher in the NE.