Home Science Space 2008 says goodbye, 2009 says hello with night sky treat
Starting Monday night (December 29, 2008) and ending with a really big show on New Year’s Eve, the new crescent Moon and the planets of Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter will help us to ring in the new year of 2009.


Look for this celestial group early in the evening, at twilight.

They will appear in the south-southwestern evening sky just after sunset (between one-half to one hour after the Sun sets in the western sky).

On Monday night, look low in the southwestern sky to see the planet Mercury (the innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System) closest to the horizon, with Jupiter located just above Mercury, and the Moon above both of the planets.

Jupiter, the fifth largest planet in the Solar System, will be seen as obviously brighter of the two planets.

To top off the show, watch the planet Venus, orbiting the Sun between Mercury and Earth, higher in the sky and to the left of the threesome.

It will be even brighter than Jupiter, being even more conspicuous in the night sky.

Check out page two with Tuesday night's festivities.




Then, on Tuesday night, the night sky continues with its brilliant show as the Moon will be positioned about half-way between the Jupiter-Mercury pair and Venus.

Its lunar size will be getting larger as its crescent shape gets a little bit wider each night.

It’s a waxing crescent phase as it approaches its first quarter phase later in January 2009.

The Moon moves a little further eastward each night as it makes its way around the Earth on its near-monthly orbit.

With an orbit completed every 27.3 or so days, it moves about 13 degrees every twenty-four hours.

In other words, 13 degrees times 27.3 days equals 354.9, or about 360 degrees, the number of degrees in one orbital period.

See what happens on New Year's Eve, on page three, along with a sky map of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.




And, on New Year’s Eve (Wednesday night) the planet Venus will be shining brightly just below the Moon.

Astronomers calculate that the two celestial bodies of our Solar System will be seen as only about two to four degrees apart.

Three degrees is about the width of the stem of your champagne glass held as arm's length (but make sure you drink your contents first so you don’t spill your sparkling wine).

Then, to the right and below the Moon-Venus planetary pair will be the Jupiter-Mercury planetary couple, with them being seen by us on Earth as only about one to two degrees apart.

Check out the Sky and Telescope magazine’s sky map of the three-night celestial event. Go to “This Week's Sky at a Glance .”

To top off your New Year’s celebration, go out at midnight, and look to the south.

The brilliant star Sirius (the Winter Star and also called the Dog Star), about 8.6 light-years away from Earth, will be shining brightly with the Orion (The Hunter) constellation to its upper-right and Procyon, the brightest star in the Canis Minor constellation (about 11.4 light-years away), to its upper-left.

In addition, the planet Saturn is located to the left, in the eastern sky.

To download a sky map from the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere, go to Astronomy a Go Go!.

So have your selves a Happy 2009 New Year and ring in the new (and hopefully much better) year with stars, a moon, and plenty of planets!

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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University

 

 

 

 

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