RIP Comet ISON. You had great promise but like Icarus, you flew to close to the sun and POOF! you were gone. But fear not, Comet Lovejoy is putting on a good show just before dawn in the east for the next few days. It should be very visible from Balsam, weather permitting, until the 17th when it will be too close to the sun. Try one of the iPhone or Android astronomy applications such as Star Walk or Sky Guide that will show you where to look. Best time will around 6:00 AM. It has been reported to be visible to the naked eye from a dark location but take binoculars just in case. Be careful not to look at the sun if you are still looking at sunrise. You can see some great photos on the Space Weather website.
The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow. Normally one of the better showers of the year, it will be tough to see much between the nearly full moon and all the rain we are having but be sure to take a look if skies clear up.
Jupiter rises in the early evening and is well positioned high in the southern sky all night for viewing. On the 18th it will appear close to the moon.
Venus is still putting on a bright show in the southwest at dusk. Its near the highest and brightest it will get in a long time. Local TV stations are still getting calls reporting a bright UFO in the skies over Atlanta!
On the 21st you can do a dance to welcome the start of Winter and the shortest day of the year.
If there is one constellation everyone can remember its the great hunter Orion. He rises late in the evening and will be high in the sky by midnight. Look for his wonderful belt and sword (home of the great Orion Nebula whose image you can see in the Images section of the Dogstar website.
We are looking forward to seeing everyone on the mountain later this month for Christmas and New Years.
Jim Stratigos – resident astronomer