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What's up in the sky December '09

posted Nov 28, 2009, 6:58 AM by Marvin Stewart
                                                                                                  " WISDOM BEGINS IN WONDER"
                                                                                                          SOCRATES  470BC-399BC
                  It was a small moment really, we could easily have missed it. We had just finished showing the fifth grade campers from Mid Rivers Elementary at Camp Sherwood the sky. We were done, the dew was forming quickly. It was time to pack up and go home. One of the the teachers came back to say "thank you" and said something that touched me. Two boys walking back to their cabin were overheard talking and they had decided that when they went to college they were going to study astronomy.  This is the reason why we stand out at night in the dark with our telescopes and share with kids, and adults, what we know. By the time those kids and adults take a peek through our telescope eyepiece they have seen Jupiter, the Moon or anything that we have to offer in books, and on television in science programing and the spectacular pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. They have already seen them in quality we can't match. But what we can give them is a personal connection. So they look and realize that this is real, and then you hear them say in a reverent tone, "wow!"
                 It is probably foolish to think that on that night those two boys became life long astronomers, anymore than they went to a basketball game and decided to one day play for the NBA.  But that night we raised the bar for them. They want to go to college and make something of themselves. It wasn't just Jupiter, or the Moon, or the Andromeda Galaxy they saw through an eyepiece, it was the future, their future! Maybe, just maybe this has happened before. We can only hope.
                This month look for:
                 02    Full Moon
           06-07    Mars is about 9 deg east and above the Moon at dawn.
                07     Earliest Sunset of the year, for those of us near 40 deg latitude north latitude.
                08     Last quarter Moon.
                10     Saturn about 9 deg above the Moon in the eastern sky at dawn.
          12-15     The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks, and may show some activity a day or two before and after. It is expected to be good and the Moon is
                          favorable. Since Gemini is up by 9 pm some meteors can be seen before they peak at dawn.
                16     New Moon
          18-22     Mercury low and right of crescent Moon in the southwest just before sunset.
                          Neptune less than a degree north of Jupiter.
                20     Mars begins retrograde motion.
                21     Winter Solstice. This is the shortest day of the year,
                23     Mercury the higest for viewers around our latitude.
                24     First quarter Moon.
                28     The Moon is in the Pleiades.
                31     Full Moon.