Welcome to Episode 175 of the Actual Astronomy Podcast we are calling this one Comet Leonard and other Objects to Observe in the December 2021 Night Sky.
- Comet Leonard is the big news for the month Erik wrote us with a link to an image someone took on Nov. 24th of Comet Leonard & NGC’s 4631- Whale & 4656
- So we didn’t really have too much on the comet in this episode because comets are notoriously difficult to predict and this one is not all that bright.
- How can this faint mag. 9 comet brighten to naked eye visibility?
- In a Sky at Night web article they briefly mentioned that the comet will appear to brighter due to something called “forward scarring”.
- Forward scattering can make a back-lit comet look much brighter when the dust and ice crystals reflect sunlight and enhance the apparent brightness by scattering light towards the observer. This has been known about for some time but only in the past couple decades has it received serious attention and there is a paper by Joseph Marcus titled Forward-Scattering Enhancement of Comet Brightness. III. Prospects for C/2010 (Elenin) as Viewed from the Earth and the SOHO, STEREO-A, and STEREO-B Spacecraft
- Same type of thing as 2006’s Comet McNaught
- Our best chances to see it are coming up early in the month as it quickly makes it way from high in the morning sky to brighter but lower in the evening sky by months end. Brightest just before mid-month
- Tips to Observe Comets? – get out early – naked eye – binos scopes? Dark skies.
Objects to Observe in the December 2021 Night Sky
Best event for December: Solar Eclipse!
Mercury and Venus pair up at month’s end while Jupiter and Saturn end their telescopic observing period for another season. Uranus pairs with the Moon and like Neptune are high in the south and well placed for telescopic observing.
1st week / weekend in December Uranus is at it’s brightest mag. 5.7 so can be spotted naked eye.
December 1st, at Magnitude 9 Comet Leonard passes close to Beta Coma Berenices, Beta is the right angle mark.
December 3rd – Moon and Mars pair up in the morning sky for an occultation in areas on Earth like central Russia, China, Japan and Hawaii.
- 7th Magnitude Comet Leonard & M3
December 4th – New Moon and total solar eclipse, however, the greatest extent occurs just off the Antarctic Coast making this challenging to see.
- 4th Venus is at its greatest illumination
December 5th – Gegenshein is visible this week – see our episode with Dave Chapman from back in August.
December 6th – Magnitude 6.5 Comet Leonard and Arcturus in same binocular field.
December 7th – Venus pairs with the crescent Moon as close as 1.9-degrees.
December 8th & 9th – The Moon pairs with Saturn then Jupiter, each time they get as close as 4-degrees but areas other than Central North America are favoured.
December 11th – First Quarter Moon & the Lunar X 12:30 UT
December 14th – Geminid Meteor Shower peak but blocked by near full Moon. Instead use the Moon to hunt down elusive Uranus with your binoculars.
December 16th – Comet & planets line up
December 18 – Comet Leonard just 2.7 Million Miles from Venus.
December 19th – Full Moon.
December 21st – Winter Solstice
December 27th – Last Quarter Moon
Christmas Star? Last year we had Jupiter & Saturn in the Great conjunction this year we have Mercury and Venus..well not so much in conjunctions as it’s more of an awkward pairing.
December 29 to 31st – Venus and Mercury are horizon objects for binoculars.
December 30th – A Double Shadow Transit is visible for Russian and similar longitudes.