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Tuesday, 10 December 2019  •  Tuesday, 14 Birch Moon 2019

Watching the night sky in Birch Moon 2019

27 November - 26 December 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 12 December, 05:12 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Birch Moon 2019

At Dark Moon, on 26 December, there is an annular eclipse of the sun visible from parts of the Arabian Peninsula, southern India, northern Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Singapore, Borneo, the very southern tip of the Philippines and the Pacific island of Guam. A partial eclipse will be visible from most of Asia (not the far north and west), NW Australia and the Horn of Africa. The moon’s orbit is not quite circular, and there are times when it is a little bit further from Earth, and thus a little bit smaller in our sky. At such times, the moon is not quite big enough to cover the sun, and a thin ring of sunlight can be seen around the dark moon at maximum eclipse. This is called an annular eclipse, and can be seen from Hofuf in eastern Saudi Arabia at 06:37 (03:37 UTC), very soon after sunrise, and Salwa on the Qatari border less than a minute later. Doha in Qatar is just on the northern edge for seeing the complete ring of sunlight, and the southern suburbs will see it better; southern parts of the country can see it well. The annular eclipse can be seen from western parts of the United Arab Emirates, including the town of Al Hamra, and from desert regions of Oman south of Muscat. Over in India, the ring of sunlight can be seen from Mangaluru in Karnakata at 09:26 (03:56 UTC), and then in the state of Kerala from Kannur at 09:27 (03:57 UTC), Calicut at 09:28 (03:58 UTC) and Kalpetta at 09:29 (03:59 UTC); in Tamil Nadu from Coimbatore at 09:30 (04:00 UTC), Tiruppur at 09:31 (04:01 UTC), Karur and Dindigul at 09:32 (04:02 UTC), Tiruchirappalli and the north side of Madurai at 09:33 (04:03 UTC), Pudukkottai at 09:34 (04:04 UTC); over in northern Sri Lanka from Jaffna at 09:37 (04:07 UTC), Vavuniya at 09:38 (04:08 UTC) and Trincomalee at 09:40 (04:10 UTC). The annular eclipse moves across the Indian Ocean to Sibolga on the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia at 12:04 (05:04 UTC) and then over to Batam on Batam Island, Indonesia at 12:26 (05:26 UTC). Nearby Singapore is mostly inside the northern edge of the annular eclipse area at 13:25 (05:25 UTC). Across the South China Sea, you can see the annular eclipse in Singkawang on Borneo, Indonesia at 12:44 (05:44 UTC), on the southern side of Kuching, in Sarawak, Malaysia at 13:49 (05:49 UTC) and Tumbit, back in Indonesia, at 14:10 (06:10 UTC). The annular eclipse can then be seen, just, in the Philippines, right at the southern tip of Minanao, at 14:30 (06:30 UTC). Finally, the annular eclipse moves over the Pacific to Hagåtña on the island of Guam and to Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands both at 16:57 (06:57 UTC). Selected places to see the partial eclipse, with percentage of the sun covered: Mogadishu, Somalia 18% at 06:37 (03:37 UTC); at sunrise in Tehran, Iran 60% at 07:14 (03:44 UTC); also at sunrise in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 89% at 06:36 (03:36 UTC); Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates at 07:38 (03:38 UTC); Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan 70% at 08:47 (03:47 UTC); Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, India 78% at 09:23 (03:53 UTC); Tashkent, Uzbekistan 26% at 09:01 (04:01 UTC); Bengaluru, Karnataka, India 88% at 09:31 (04:01 UTC); New Delhi, India 44% at 09:32 (04:02 UTC); Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India 83% at 09:36 (04:06 UTC); Colombo, Sri Lanka 87% at 09:38 (04:08 UTC); Lhasa, Tibet, China 26% at 12:33 (04:33 UTC); Bangkok, Thailand 56% at 12:07 (05:07 UTC); Jakarta, Java, Indonesia 71% at 12:38 (05:38 UTC); Beijing, China 7% at 13:49 (05:49 UTC); Hong Kong, China 34% at 13:56 (05:56 UTC); Broome, Western Australia 23% at 14:16 (06:16 UTC); Manila, Philippines 60% at 14:20 (06:20 UTC); Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia 2.3% at 16:00 (06:30 UTC); Darwin, Northern Territory 31% at 16:05 (06:35 UTC); Tokyo, Japan 27% at 15:36 (06:36 UTC).

On the evening of 28 November, the new crescent moon is very close to Jupiter, and occults it in darkness as seen parts of Central Asia. As seen from Almaty, the moon covers Jupiter from just after sunset at 17:19 (11:19 UTC) to 18:24 (12:24 UTC), when the moon and Jupiter are near to setting themselves. Venus is nearby. As seen from Britain & Ireland, the moon’s closest pass to Venus varies between 19:43 and 19:54. Saturn is a bit further out from the sunset, and on the evening of 29 November, the crescent moon is close to the south of Saturn. The moon occults Saturn in darkness from uninhabited parts of the southern Pacific. Venus climbs higher into the western evening sky, and on 11 December passes 1.8°S of the much fainter Saturn. Jupiter can also be seen, low down towards the sunset, as it makes its way towards the far side of the sun.

Mars is in the eastern morning sky, gradually growing brighter as it moves further out from behind the sun. On 1 December, it passes into the constellation Libra. On 12 December, Mars passes 12 minutes of arc north of the double star system Alpha Librae, a little brighter than the brighter of the two stars. On the morning of 23 December, the old crescent moon is to the north of Mars. Below Mars is Mercury, which reaches 20°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky on 28 November, a very good view from the northern hemisphere, from where the elusive planet is visible for all but about the last week of the month. From southern lands, Mercury will at best be very low down in the ESE.

Look out for the brilliant Geminid meteors on the night 13/14 December, especially after midnight, though the just-past-full moon might obscure them a bit, and (in the northern hemisphere) for the Ursid meteors, on the night 22/23 December, again after midnight.

The month ahead: Rowan Moon 2020

27 December 2019 - 24 January 2020

Map of night sky at full moon: 10 January, 19:21 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Rowan Moon 2020

Venus climbs further from behind the sun into the western evening sky, gradually brightening. The crescent moon is nearby on 28 and 29 December.

Mars likewise climbs further into the eastern morning sky, passing into Scorpius on 7 January, not yet as bright as Scorpius’ bright red star, Antares. On 15 January, Mars moves quickly on into Ophiuchus. On 18 January it passes well to the north of Antares. The old crescent moon is nearby on the mornings of 20 and 21 January.

Jupiter emerges from behind the sun into the morning sky, rising about an hour before the sun by the end of the month. See it between the old crescent moon and the sunrise on 22 January. You may be able to see the even older crescent moon near Jupiter on 23 January.

Mercury and Saturn are behind the sun all month.

At full moon on 10 January there is a penumbral eclipse of the moon, visible from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Arctic. Maximum eclipse is at 19:10 UTC, when some darkening of the moon’s southern limb is visible. In a penumbral eclipse as seen from Earth, nowhere on the moon has a total eclipse of the sun. Instead, at 19:10, there is a 90% eclipse visible from the moon’s south pole. There are no total or partial eclipses of the moon this year.

Look out for the Quadrantid meteors around 3 & 4 January, and especially in the early hours.

William Morris
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