The waxing crescent Moon will appear near Venus on the evening of 6 December, Saturn on the 7th and Jupiter on 8th.
6-13 December: Geminid Meteor Shower
Unlike earlier in the month, moonlight will cause problems for night-sky enthusiasts in mid-December, when the waxing gibbous moon will brighten the sky and hamper observing of this year’s Geminid meteor shower, which reaches maximum on the night of 13/14 December. The emanation point of these meteors is near the bright star Castor in Gemini (hence the name Geminids), rising from the east-northeast as evening twilight ends. It will be well placed in the northwestern sky when the moon sets with the morning twilight not interfering until about 6 a.m. During this window of darkness, nocturnal observers with clear, dark skies may see perhaps as many as one slow-moving fireball (meteor) per minute. This meteor shower is expected to be active until 17 December, with a fairly broad peak, so with decent viewing conditions, you have a good chance of seeing some meteors at some point in the mornings before and after the peak.
12 December: Comet Leonard
On 12 December, Comet Leonard will pass within 34.9 million km of Earth. Not quite the stuff of the movie Armageddon but quite close in astronomical terms! (So what if I’ve spelt Armageddon incorrectly – it’s not the end of the world.) During the first two weeks of December, Comet Leonard will be visible for a couple of hours before sunrise, low in the east-northeast sky. It will track through the constellations Coma Berenices, Boötes and Serpens. It should be an easy object to see with a small telescope or a pair of binoculars – and possibly with the unaided eye – and will be at its brightest around the 14th when it should be visible just before dawn and just after dusk. During the latter half of December, as the comet gets closer to the sun, it will gradually get absorbed into the light of dawn and disappear from view.
The Observers Group covers a number of activities that are carried out collectively by a select number of individuals from within the group. the group meets formally on a set night each month at a published location – previously currently Dan Sheahan’s Bar and Restaurant (see image below) it is now online via ZOOM.
Short reports of the groups activities are set out below however the Group’s main activities cover the following discrete subjects:
Physically looking at the sky with and without optical instruments.
This may be from known local sites in Cork to foreign trips to other
observatories. Takes place at least once a month weather depending.
Observing Presentations: When the skies are overcast on the observing night the group holds discussions and presentations of astronomy subjects – normally several 10 – 15 minute talks with slides.
Astrophotography – at dark sky and other sites those interested in this subject meet to take images via terrestrial or astronomy cameras. The club also published a monthly astrophotography newsletter, the Image Board, comprising images from club members.
Radio Astronomy – a small group within the club are experimenting with radio detection apparatus.
Light Pollution – the club is carrying out a planned project to measure light levels at a variety of Cork locations.
Club Observatory – this has a 13″ reflector telescope. Use of this is by prior invitation/arrangement
The weather on Friday 21st December looked unpromising for a visit to Drombeg stone circle–but perseverance was rewarded when about 25 members and their friends briefly witnessed–or almost witnessed–the solstice sunset there. Just about 4 in the afternoon, twenty minutes or so before official sunset, the sun briefly broke through the clouds fractionally to the left of a notch in the hills which really made the day. Club member Michael O’Keeffe gave a tour of the site, telling its history, the excavation of the site which took place in the 1950’s, and the relevance of the winter and summer solstice.
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The open night will be hosting workshops, a Gravity Well to show how space is warped by large objects, demonstrations on Stellarium (a free software that helps you to explore the night sky) and observing in the courtyard with telescopes brought by Club members. (weather dependent!)
Schedule of events:
19:00 – 20:00 – Prof Robert Walsh: A talk in the area of solar science and our relationship with the Sun
20:15 – 22:00 – Cork Skeptics host Kevin Mitchell: Destiny and Chance – How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are
19:00 – 22:00 – Stargazing with Cork Astronomy Club*
Workshops and other activities will run throughout the night from 19:00