The Sky Over Belper – December/January

The International Space Station: Christmas Eve

This week is a good time to get a sighting of the International Space Station, as it will be flying over the UK up to Christmas Day. In particular the ISS can be seen on Christmas Eve, approaching from the SSW at precisely 5.21 pm. The space station will be visible for 1 minute, appearing as a bright light gliding across the sky (imaginative parents can feel free to use this knowledge as they choose). Nasa provides an excellent service which gives the precise times for ISS sightings, and even provides alerts. How to spot the ISS can be found here:

http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

Slooh Observatory Celebrates the Christmas Full Moon

There will be a full moon on the 25th of December; the first since 1977. The full moon is expected to rise in the UK at 4.30pm on Christmas Day. To celebrate, Slooh Observatory will be making their space camera available to the public from Midnight on Christmas Eve. They promise a special appearance by Santa and an opportunity to take pictures, to keep and share, of Santa’s sleigh flying across the full moon. They will also be observing the “Christmas Comet”, Comet Catalina – currently only visible as a binocular object. The event can be viewed here:

http://main.slooh.com/event/spot-santa-live-on-christmas-eve/

Comet Catalina – the Christmas Comet:

If you are prepared to get up early in the morning (5.00am onwards) you may be able to see Comet Catalina. This is currently a binocular object (10 x 50) and will be visible up to mid – January. The comet can be located by looking towards the SE horizon, identifying the orange hued star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes, and then scanning down to the comet. By New Year’s Day the comet will appear to be alongside Arcturus so could be easier to spot then. Seen through binoculars the comet will appear as a fuzzy, circular, blob. This is a good sky chart from the Sky and Telescope website.

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/wp-content/uploads/Web_Dec15_Catalina_BW.pdf

The Quadrantids Meteor Shower: Late night January 3rd to dawn January 4th, 2016

The Quadrantids meteor shower can be a bit of gamble. It has a very short peak of only a couple of hours, but during that peak it can produce many meteors. Viewing conditions are predicted to be good as the moon will be a waning crescent on that night. Astronomers estimate that the peak of the shower should be between 3.00am and dawn on the 4th of January, so set your alarm if you want to see it. For the best viewing look up towards the North-North East. Slooh will also be covering the event here:

http://main.slooh.com/event/the-quadrantid-meteor-shower-2016/

Free online course. In the Night Sky: Orion

The Open University is making available a free online course based on the constellation Orion. The course lasts for four weeks and will start on the 4th of January. It is suitable for anyone with an interest in astronomy. The course will cover such topics as how stars are born, how they die, how to recognise the different constellations and how stars are mapped. You can register on the course through Futurelearn here:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/orion

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