The North Devon sky at night

John Parratt

John Parratt - Credit: Archant

Barnstaple astronomer John Parratt explains what’s going on in the sky this month...

John Parratt

John Parratt - Credit: Archant

Barnstaple astronomer John Parratt explains what’s going on in the sky this month...

Moon phases

New moon 3rd; first half 10th; full moon 17th; last half 25th.

The planets


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Mercury rises in the morning sky, around the middle of the month; it’s low and will be fairly bright, and not far from the star ‘Spica’.

Venus is very low in the south western sky, can be seen just after sunset; it’s just to the left of the star ‘Antares’.

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Mars is in the morning sky, just to the left of the front paw star (Regulus) of constellation of Leo. It’s small, red, but telescopically seeing the surface is not very good at the moment.

Jupiter rises in the morning sky. It’s the brightest object in the sky and has amazing cloud belts.

Saturn also rises in the morning sky, around the middle of the month, just behind Mercury.

Uranus is in the southern night sky and shows as a small greenish disc.

Neptune is also in the southern sky and shows as a small bluish disc.

Comets

Many people have heard about Comet Ison in the news recently. Scientists and astronomers are calling it the comet of the century, and around Christmas time, we should all be seeing it in the evening skies.

At present, Ison is in the early morning sky, just below the constellation of Leo, heading north towards the sun. Around the end of the month, the comet will go around the sun.

It’s not quite a sun grazer, but it’s close; if the comet survives, it should be bright and will be in our evening skies around the middle of December. With luck, it should be a spectacular sight.

If you look to south-eastern morning sky, fairly low down, around 16th to 20th of this month, you should be able to see comets Encke and Ison in the same part of the sky Mercury, depending on how bright they are.

If you are thinking about buying a Christmas present for someone, you won’t go far wrong. There are many affordable telescopes now and I’ll be talking about some of the different options in next month’s column.

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